New found widest-orbit-ever pulsar discovered by high school students

A pulsar with the widest orbit ever, has been detected by a team of exceedingly resolute high school students. The students discovered the never-before-seen pulsar by meticulously scrutinizing data from the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope (GBT). Upon further follow up observations by astronomers via the GBT showed that this pulsar is part of only a handful of double neutron star systems and has the widest orbit around a neutron star.

West Virginia University lead author, Joe Swiggum said, the student’s discovery of these pulsars, is a really unique circumstance as one of the most extreme objects in the universe.

Around 10 percent of identified pulsars are in binary systems, the huge bulk of these are established orbiting primeval white dwarf companion stars. Only a sporadic few orbit other neutron stars or like our Sun, a main sequence star.  This rarity of double neutron star systems is due to the process by which pulsars and all neutron stars are formed, astronomers believed.

This pulsar, christened as PSR J1930-1852, was discovered in 2012, by a student at Strasburg High School in Virginia, Cecilia McGough and De’Shang Ray, a student at Paul Laurence Dunbar High School in Baltimore, Maryland.

Astronomers firmly believed that this new pulsar is a portion of a binary system, based on the differences in its spin frequency between the original detection and follow-up observations.

Its orbit is more than double, in terms of size, as that of any previously known double neutron star system, Swiggum noted. Adding that the pulsar’s constraints give them prized clues on how a system like this could have been formed. Discoveries of pulsar systems like J1930-1852 give scientists a clearer depiction of the extensive range of potentials in binary evolution.



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