Astronomy

A Pulsing Trio

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Science  18 Sep 2009:
Vol. 325, Issue 5947, pp. 1477
DOI: 10.1126/science.325_1477c

Pulsars are rapidly rotating neutron stars that emit beams of electromagnetic radiation like distant lighthouses. It is estimated that 100 to 1000 pulsars orbit the galactic center with periods of less than 100 years, but only a very small fraction of these can be detected with current telescopes. Searching for the pulsars is important because they can inform us about the environment at the galactic center. Analysis of pulse arrival times can be used to derive the properties of the space-time and interstellar plasma there, and the number and ages of the pulsars can tell us about this region's past star formation history. Until recently, only two pulsars were known within 1° of the center of our galaxy. Now Deneva et al., using data obtained with the Green Bank Telescope, a 100-m radio telescope, report the detection of another three pulsars. The observed properties imply that the trio is part of a population of pulsars associated with the galactic center. Monte Carlo simulations indicate that this population could be more numerous than previously estimated.

Astrophys. J. 702, L177 (2009).

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