Astronomers catch a star being revved-up
The work, which is published online in Science Express on 21 May, was undertaken by an international team led by PhD student Anne Archibald and her supervisor, Professor Victoria Kaspi of McGill University in Montreal, Canada. “This object, called PSR J1023+0038, is a millisecond pulsar, a condensed star about the size of a major city,” said CSIRO’s Australia Telescope National Facility researcher Dr David Champion. “It’s now revolving at 592 times a second, which means it’s one of the fastest spinning objects we know.” PSR J1023+0038 lies 4000 light-years from Earth in the constellation Sextans. Pulsars are superdense neutron stars, the squashed-in cores of massive stars that have exploded. We detect them by the beams of radio waves they emit, which sweep over Earth like a lighthouse beam as the pulsar rotates.