The Pulsar Glitch
July 27, 2012 Leave a Comment
Pulsars are the “beacons” of space. They are tiny, burnt out stars which emit regular pulses of gamma rays. Pulsars normally act in a similar way, but scientists have recently found one with “hiccups.” The pulsar J1838-0537 suddenly speeded up the rays it was blasting into space, and “glitched” in a cosmic hiccup that scientists still don’t understand.
Finding pulsars is extremely difficult, and this new discovery might shed some new light on these mysterious cosmic objects. The odd new star was found as astronomers sifted through astronomical data with high-powered supercomputers. By employing new optimal algorithms, they were able to identify many previously missed signals from these pulsars. In November 2011, Allen’s team announced the discovery of nine new Fermi gamma-ray pulsars, all of which had escaped previous searches. The scientists have now made a new extraordinary find with the same methods.The name “J1838-0537″ of the new pulsar comes from its celestial coordinates. The pulsar is about 5,000 years old, but astronomers say that is still very young. It rotates about its own axis roughly seven times per second, and its position in the sky is towards the Scutum constellation. The pulsar was initially only visible until September 2009, then it seemed to suddenly disappear.
A complex follow-up analysis enabled an international team to solve the mystery of pulsar J1838-0537. It did not disappear, it experienced a sudden “glitch” after which it rotated 38 millionths of a Hertz faster than before. The difference may appear negligibly small, but it’s the largest glitch ever measured for a pure gamma-ray pulsar.