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It is the most powerful of the pulsars

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In a dwarf galaxy nearly 400 million light-years from ours, an object has recently caught the attention of astronomers. It could be one of the youngest and most powerful pulsars ever discovered. And the researchers hope it will help them solve the mystery of fast radio bursts (FRBs).

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[EN VIDÉO] A “black widow” pulsar devours its mate
When it comes to spiders, black widow spiders are the ones that devour their mates after mating. And astronomers have observed similar behavior in the sky. When a pulsar and a low-mass star form a binary system. Faced with the radiation emitted by the pulsar, the star has little chance of surviving for long. (in English) © NASA Goddard

His nickname is VT 1137-0337. It breeds in a dwarf galaxy containing approximately 100 million la mass ours Sun and has identified about 395 millionlight years of our Earth. And according to what was presented by the researchers in Pasadena (USA) during the American Astronomical Union Congresshe is one of the youngest neutron stars never found out. A pulsar that would be no more than 60-80 years old!

But all this deserves some clarification. First, remember that a neutron star is the remnant of a supermassive star that has exploded supernova. An extremely dense residue since it maintains, within a diameter of a few tens of kilometers, a mass comparable to that of our Sun. And one pulsar, this is the term used to designate a neutron star that rotates very rapidly on its axis. Sometimes in a matter of milliseconds.

What astronomers think they found out in the data from the VLA Sky Surveythis is actually what they call nebula wind of pulsar. It is formed from charged particles accelerated by a powerful magnetic field Has gears close to that of the light after a supernova explosion gave birth to a pulsar. This pulsar wind nebula first appeared in an image recorded in 2018.

A key to the mystery of fast radio bursts?

Yet the neutron star that generated it is probably not that young. Researchers believe that VT 1137-0337 did not appear earlier because his issue the radio was to be obscured by the debris from the initial supernova explosion of the supermassive star. With the expansion from this shell the radio waves finally managed to reach us.

Note that this isn’t the first time astronomers have observed a pulsar wind nebula. The famous crab nebula, in the constellation of Taurus, is one. It was born from a supernova that appeared in the year 1054. And it remains visible with the help of a telescope amateur. The difference between the crab nebula and VT 1137-0337 is that the latter appears to be no less than 10,000 times more energetic. With a much stronger magnetic field. What earned him the nickname of “Big crab” emerging.

And the fact that its magnetic field is so strong could even expel it from the category of pulsar wind nebulae. VT 1137-0337 could hide … a magnetar. The same people who are strongly suspected of being behind the fast radio bursts. The famous FRBs that intrigue astronomers so much. More than a simple magnetar, VT 1137-0337 would be neither more nor less than the whole first magnetar “Caught in the act of appearing”.

Even more exciting, the intriguing features of some fast radio bursts – radio bursts associated with persistent radio signals – have strong similarities to the properties of this strange object. What finally also raises the following question: Couldn’t FRBs find their source in pulsar wind nebulae too? Astronomers now intend to closely monitor VT 1137-0337 to learn more about this strange object and its evolution over time.

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