A team of Harvard/Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics scientists has located the third known visible light pulsar-one of the rarest, least understood astronomical phenomena.
Scientists theorize that some stars die in a violent explosion known as a supernova, which creates a pulsar-a very dense core of neutrons.
The new pulsar was identified by through its X-ray pulses by Frederick D. Seward and Frank R. Harnden of the Center for Astrophysics and David Helfand of Columbia University.
While radio waves and X-rays have determined that several hundred of these star remnants exist, scientists have only been able to locate three of them. Moreover, the recently located pulsar is easily observed.
When the scientists noticed that the radio pulses emitted by the pulsar were similar to one of the two earlier found pulsars, they began to hope that it too might be visible.
The next move was to contact astronomers at the Lawerence Berkeley Laboratory in California who employed specialzed telescopes to attempt to see the phenomenon. After three nights of observations they detected something unusual, but because the pulsar is visible only from the Southern Hempisphere they were unable to confirm its visibile existance until they moved to the 4-meter telescope at Cerro Tololo Observatory in Chilie.
Visibly, the Magnetic cloud where the pulsar is located is a 23rd magnitude object, and therefore much more favorable for study than the Vela pulsar the second found to be visible within our our own galaxy.
Pulsars and supernovae not only extremely rare, but provide important insight into the evolution of stars and other interstellar objects, Seward said.
In fact many scientists agree that the molecules making up our planet were first created in supernovae explosions.