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Pulsar Glitches Help to Weigh a Star

By Dave Reneke

Pulsar glitches help to weigh a star, and Jupiter’s Great Red Spot is shrinking.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

Researchers from the University of Southampton have developed a new method for measuring the mass of pulsars, highly magnetised rotating neutron stars formed from the remains of massive stars after they explode into supernovae.

Until now, scientists have determined the mass of stars, planets and moons by studying their relative motion using gravitational interactions between the two as the basis for their calculations. Southampton mathematicians have now found a new way to measure the mass of young pulsars using the principles of nuclear physics, rather than gravity, to work out their mass.

All previous precise measurements of pulsar masses have been made for stars that orbit another object, using the same techniques used to measure the mass of the Earth or Moon. This new technique is so different it can even be used for pulsars in isolation.

Pulsars emit a rotating beam of electro­magnetic radiation, which can be detected by telescopes when the beam sweeps past the Earth like the beam of a lighthouse. Renowned for their incredible rotational stability, young pulsars occasionally experience so-called “glitches” where they speed up for a very brief period of time.

It’s believed these glitches arise as a rapidly spinning superfluid within the star transfers its rotational energy to the star’s crust, the component that is tracked by observations....

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.