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NGC 5907 ULX is the Brightest Pulsar Ever Observed

03/01/2017 3:23 PM

There's a new record holder for brightest pulsar ever found -- and astronomers are still trying to figure out how it can shine so brightly. It's now part of a small group of mysterious bright pulsars that are challenging astronomers to rethink how pulsars accumulate, or accrete, material.

NGC 5907 ULX is the brightest pulsar ever observed. This image comprises X-ray emission data (blue/white) from ESA's XMM-Newton space telescope and NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory, and optical data from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (galaxy and foreground stars). The inset shows the X-ray pulsation of the spinning neutron star. Credits: ESA/XMM-Newton; NASA/Chandra and SDSS

A pulsar is a spinning, magnetized neutron star that sweeps regular pulses of radiation in two symmetrical beams across the cosmos. If aligned well enough with Earth, these beams act like a lighthouse beacon -- appearing to flash on and off as the pulsar rotates. Pulsars were previously massive stars that exploded in powerful supernovae, leaving behind these small, dense stellar corpses.

The brightest pulsar, as reported in the journal Science, is called NGC 5907 ULX. In one second, it emits the same amount of energy as our sun does in three-and-a-half years. The European Space Agency's XMM-Newton satellite found the pulsar and, independently, NASA's NuSTAR (Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array) mission also detected the signal. This pulsar is 50 million light years away, which means its light dates back to a time before humans roamed Earth. It is also the farthest known neutron star.

"This object is really challenging our current understanding of the accretion process for high-luminosity pulsars,” said Gian Luca Israel, from INAF-Osservatorio Astronomica di Roma, Italy, lead author of the Science paper. "It is 1,000 times more luminous than the maximum thought possible for an accreting neutron star, so something else is needed in our models in order to account for the enormous amount of energy released by the object."

The previous record holder for brightest pulsar was reported in October 2014. NuSTAR had identified M82 X-2, located about 12 million light-years away in the "Cigar Galaxy" galaxy Messier 82 (M82), as a pulsar rather than a black hole. The pulsar reported in Science, NGC 5907 ULX, is 10 times brighter.

Another extremely bright pulsar, the third brightest known, is called NGC 7793 P13. Using a combination of XMM-Newton and NuSTAR, one group of scientists reported the discovery in the Astrophysical Journal Letters, while another used XMM-Newton to report it in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. Both studies were published in October 2016. Scientists call three extremely bright pulsars "ultraluminous X-ray sources" (ULXs). Before the 2014 discovery, many scientists thought that the brightest ULXs were black holes.

"They are brighter than what you would expect from an accreting black hole of 10 solar masses," said Felix Fuerst, lead author of the Astrophysical Journal Letters study based at the European Space Astronomy Center in Madrid. Fuerst did this work while at Caltech in Pasadena, California.

How these objects are able to shine so brightly is a mystery. The leading theory is that these pulsars have strong, complex magnetic fields closer to their surfaces. A magnetic field would distort the flow of incoming material close to the neutron star. This would allow the neutron star to continue accreting material while still generating high levels of brightness.

It could be that many more ULXs are neutron stars, scientists say.

"These discoveries of 'light,' compact objects that shine so brightly, is revolutionizing the field," Israel said.

For more information on NuSTAR, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/nustar

http://www.nustar.caltech.edu/

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Pathfinder Tags: magnetar neutron star NuStar pulsar
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#1

Re: NGC 5907 ULX is the Brightest Pulsar Ever Observed

03/01/2017 7:10 PM

Speaking of brightness, I just purchased a 100 watt LED that I will be wiring up soon, you know when I have time, I'm so busy, but look forward to unprecedented brightness at the Solar nest....not sure for what yet.....

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#2
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Re: NGC 5907 ULX is the Brightest Pulsar Ever Observed

03/01/2017 7:46 PM

Pic?

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#5
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Re: NGC 5907 ULX is the Brightest Pulsar Ever Observed

03/01/2017 11:12 PM

What kind is it? Something like this?

This consumes 100W. Does yours consume that much power or is it 100W equivalent (around 15W actual power consumption)?

I was thinking that with the right switching, one of these modules would make a great high-power, high-speed strobe light.

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#6
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Re: NGC 5907 ULX is the Brightest Pulsar Ever Observed

03/02/2017 1:04 AM

Yeah that's it....plus I got a variable power supply and heatsink....

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#7
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Re: NGC 5907 ULX is the Brightest Pulsar Ever Observed

03/02/2017 1:07 AM

Nice!

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#8
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Re: NGC 5907 ULX is the Brightest Pulsar Ever Observed

03/02/2017 12:30 PM

You didn't happen to spurge for CREE, did you?

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#9
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Re: NGC 5907 ULX is the Brightest Pulsar Ever Observed

03/02/2017 12:48 PM

Looks like somebody's been raiding CREE's dumpster after hours.

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#12
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Re: NGC 5907 ULX is the Brightest Pulsar Ever Observed

03/02/2017 2:49 PM

I'm not sure he's being entirely fair with this "testing" technique. The individual LEDs are designed to work at 300 mA, and he's complaining about them not all being lit at 2 mA: his power supply is reporting 20 mA; there are ten columns in parallel.

I'm not saying he's wrong about them being rubbish just that I think more detailed investigation is required.

I can imagine that once you got up to 2 Amps say that's 200 mA per LED and you could some how isolate the light from individual LED then it might be difficult to spot light and dark ones.

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#13
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Re: NGC 5907 ULX is the Brightest Pulsar Ever Observed

03/02/2017 4:43 PM

Lohas ...$10.49 - 4.5 star rating, should be good...

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#3

Re: NGC 5907 ULX is the Brightest Pulsar Ever Observed

03/01/2017 10:14 PM

<Astronomer looking through telescope> "Hey, I think I found som...AGHH, MY EYES!!!!!"

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#4
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Re: NGC 5907 ULX is the Brightest Pulsar Ever Observed

03/01/2017 11:00 PM

I know, right? Or his dentist holding up fluorescent screen behind his head: "Whilst you're at it, let's take a good look at those cavities!" - this thing is spewing out a ton of X-rays.

What's so amazing is how fast it's slowing down: from 1.43 seconds per rotation, to 1.13 seconds per, in just 11 years. We're talking about slowing-down a spinning object more massive than the sun but about the size of Chicago. It must be stripping off a sh!tload of mass from a companion star to brake it that fast. If this keeps up and it gains enough mass, it'll collapse into a black hole. These stars are right on the bleeding edge of doing that anyway; it doesn't take much to push 'em over the edge.

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#10
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Re: NGC 5907 ULX is the Brightest Pulsar Ever Observed

03/02/2017 1:10 PM

Isn't it speeding up if the period is decreasing?

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#11
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Re: NGC 5907 ULX is the Brightest Pulsar Ever Observed

03/02/2017 2:00 PM

Yeah. <smh>

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#14
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Re: NGC 5907 ULX is the Brightest Pulsar Ever Observed

03/03/2017 12:21 AM

....or it began to accelerate towards us.

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