NASA has discovered a pulsar hurtling through space at nearly four million kilometres an hour — so fast that it could travel the distance between Earth and the Moon in just six minutes.
- Pulsar is a celestial object that emits regular pulses of radio waves and other electromagnetic radiation at rates of up to one thousand pulses per second.
- Pulsars are superdense, rapidly spinning neutron stars left behind when a massive star explodes.
- Pulsar J0002 was discovered in 2017 by a citizen-science project called Einstein@Home, which uses time on the computers of volunteers to process Fermi gamma-ray data.
- This pulsar is dubbed PSR J0002+6216 (J0002 for short) and sports a radio-emitting tail pointing directly towards the expanding debris of a recent supernova explosion.
- Further study of this object will help us better understand how these explosions are able to ‘kick’ neutron stars to such high speed.
- The project has identified 23 gamma-ray pulsars to date.
- Located about 6,500 light-years away in the constellation Cassiopeia, J0002 spins 8.7 times a second, producing a pulse of gamma rays with each rotation.
- The pulsar lies about 53 light-years from the centre of a supernova remnant called CTB 1.
- Its rapid motion through interstellar gas results in shock waves that produce the tail of magnetic energy and accelerated particles detected at radio wavelengths using the VLA.