SYDNEY, June 1 (Xinhua) -- An international research team led by an astronomer in Australia has discovered a new class of pulsar star from deep within a galactic "graveyard".
Dr. Manisha Caleb from the Sydney Institute for Astronomy (SIfA) at the University of Sydney said the pulsar, named PSR J0901-4046, was the first to have ever been found in a region of the Milky Way about 1,300 light years from Earth.
Speaking to Xinhua on Wednesday, Caleb said the pulsing star was unlike any of its neighbors as it was in a part of the galaxy that had long been deemed a "graveyard" for neutron stars at the very end of their life cycle.
Neutron stars are comprised of extremely dense remnants of supernova explosions of massive astronomical objects, while pulsars are a variety of neutron star that emit electromagnetic radiation beams from their magnetic poles.
In an article published on the Conversation website, Caleb wrote that pulsars could ordinarily be monitored "a bit like how you'd see a lighthouse periodically flash in the distance."
The PSR J0901-4046, however, does not follow such a predictable pattern, appearing to have at least seven types of pulses.
"This diversity in pulse shape, and also pulse intensity, is likely related to the unknown physical emission mechanism of the object," Caleb wrote.
Caleb said the surprise find was first detected from a single pulse that only lasted about 300 milliseconds but which "wasn't like anything we'd seen before."
Following that initial brief encounter, researchers from the international MeerTRAP team using the MeerKAT radio telescope in South Africa took a series of eight-second-long images which confirmed the peculiar pulsar produced multiple kinds of pulses.
From those flashes, the team has subsequently deduced that PSR J0901-4046 rotates far slower than other pulsars and, as such, represents "the beginning of a new class of neutron stars," Caleb said, adding that it had "important implications for understanding how neutron stars are born and age."
Caleb told Xinhua that she was now confident of the existence of many more such pulsars being "out there."
"It has given us a whole new field to explore ... we need only look," she said.
The MeerTRAP team's findings were published in Nature Astronomy. ■