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Spinning star hurtles through space at 2.5 million Mph after the quick kick of a supernova

A pulsar shoots away from the supernova remnant CTB 1 in this image made with composite data from the Very Large array and the Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory, the Canadian Galactic Plane Survey.
(Composed by Jayanne English, University of Manitoba, using data from the NRAO/F. Schinzel et al., DRAO/Canadian Galactic Plane Survey, and NASA/IRAS)

Astronomers have clocked a pulsar careening through space at a mind-boggling 2.5 million mph (4 million km/h). It seems to be kicked up to such high speeds by its parent star.

Researchers announced the discovery of 19 March, the High Energy Astrophysics Division meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Monterey, California. She saw the pulsar of a low Earth orbit with NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope and the Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array in New Mexico.

“Because of the small dart-like tail, and a random viewing angle, we can see the pulsar directly back to her hometown,” Frank Schinzel of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in New Mexico, said in a statement. [The 12 Weirdest Objects in the Universe]

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Pulsars are one of the most spectacular phenomena in the universe. They are fast rotating neutron stars, which are the cores of collapsed giants. This dense neutron stars spin rapidly, emitting beams of electromagnetic radiation can be detected only when pointed in the direction of the Earth. Thus, the signals seem to pulse, giving them their name.

The fast pulsar was discovered in 2017 by using Fermi data and a citizen science project called Einstein@home, which uses regular computers’ idle time to process the astrophysical data. After you calculate 10 years worth of numbers, Schinzel and his colleagues calculated the new pulsar is an incredible speed and its direction as it moves through the space.

The pulsar, called PSR J0002+6216 (or J0002 for short), is 6500 light-years away from the Earth, and 53 light-years away from CTB 1, the remnant of a supernova. The pulsar is trailed by a tail of magnetic energy and particles 12 light years long, which point back to CTB 1.

Old explosion

About 10,000 years ago, a supernova explosion, leaving behind CTB 1 and shoot J0002 to the outside. According to the new research, submitted for publication to The Astrophysical Journal Letters, the pulsar is faster than 99 per cent of pulsars for which the speed is known, when cruising at five times the speed of the average pulsar. It will eventually leave the Milky way.

The researchers are planning to study J0002 to better understanding of the supernova explosion that the flying, drawing in more observations of the National Science Foundation’s Very Long Baseline Array and NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory.

“Further study of this object will help us better understand how these explosions are able to ‘kick’ neutron stars to such high speed,” Schinzel said.

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Originally published on Live Science.

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