Astronomers have newly discovered a small “hiccupping” or spinning star in the vacuum of space. They are calling this discovery “Pulsar J1838-0537.” It is an extremely rare breed of pulsar that radiates light only in the high-energy gamma-ray range of the electromagnetic spectrum. The Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope discovered the pulsar when astronomers analyzed the data it collected.
Holger Pletsch, a scientist at the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics at the Albert Einstein Institute in Germany said of the find:
After the discovery we were very surprised that the pulsar was initially only visible until September 2009,” he continued, “Then it seemed to suddenly disappear.
But the pulsar didn’t actually disappear, it excelled to about 38 millionths of a Hertz, making it look like it vanished. “This difference may appear negligibly small, but it’s the largest glitch ever measured for a pure gamma-ray pulsar,” said Bruce Allen, the director of the Albert Einstein Institute. When scientist at the Institute expected the beam of light from the pulsar to appear, it seemed to have vanished but the data from the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope confirmed otherwise.
Astronomers believe this pulsar was lost when they thought it stopped pulsating. A few hours later, “J1838-0537” showed up again. This glitch in the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope was unknown but the astronomers believe it was due to “star quakes” on the surface of the pulsar, which affected its rotation speed.
Pulsars are stars that have been compressed or squeezed down to a much smaller mass. Its name comes from its pulsating appearance, which resembles a heartbeat or a light switch. Pulsars are also made up of the remnants of normal stars.