Vera pulsar pouring out 200 times more energy than thought possible, scientists discover

Pulsars are what is leftover after supernova explosions demolish stars. Although these dead stars measure just about 20 kilometers across in size, they rotate super fast and are extremely dense, with a teaspoon of a pulsar’s mass weighing in at about a billion tons if we could somehow transport it back to Earth.

These dead stars emanate rotating beams of electromagnetic radiation called gamma rays like a lighthouse, which we can observe from our vantage point on Earth as a light flashing on and off. The so-called Vela pulsar, which is about 1,000 light years away and can be observed from the Southern hemisphere, has the brightest gamma-ray emission of any pulsar known. A new study published in Nature Astronomy today found the amount of energy the Vela pulsar puts out is far greater than once thought. Researchers at the H.E.S.S. observatory in Namibia found the gamma rays emitted 20 tera-electronvolts, which is 10 trillion times the energy of visible light and 200 times higher than any other radiation ever detected from the Vela pulsar.

“This result challenges our previous knowledge of pulsars and requires a rethinking of how these natural accelerators work,” said study author Arache Djannati-Atai, Ph.D., from the Astroparticle & Cosmology (APC) laboratory in France in a press release.


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