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Pulsar Gets the Munchies, Snacks On an Asteroid 54

Posted by Soulskill
from the om-nom-nom dept.
astroengine writes "In research accepted for publication in the Astrophysical Journal, astronomers documented the anomalous spin rate of a pulsar that has been observed 'multiple times' between 1988 and 2012. In September 2005, the spin rate of the well-observed PSR J0738-4042 changed and a team of astronomers headed by Paul Brook, of the University of Oxford, think they know why. 'The data lead us to postulate that we are witnessing an encounter with an asteroid or in-falling debris from a disk,' they write in a paper published to the arXiv pre-print service. The moral of the story? It's not just black holes that get the asteroid munchies."
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Pulsar Gets the Munchies, Snacks On an Asteroid

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  • But when the get gas, it's gamma rays, phew, light a match!

    • by Salgak1 (20136)
      No need, the gamma flux will light the match for you. That, and nearby planets as well. . .
    • by phrostie (121428) on Friday December 13, 2013 @02:06PM (#45682271)

      all jokes aside, if something as simple as debris falling into the pulsar will change it's spin rate, then maybe using these for navigation isn't so reliable after all.

      just a thought.

      • by cusco (717999)

        Any addition of mass to a pulsar will change it's spin rate, whether it be a large asteroid or an atom of water. I think the fact that we can detect the change created by something as small as an asteroid is incredibly cool. Besides, it's not the spin rate of the pulsar that would be used for navigation, it would be the object's location. The spin rate is just a convenient marker to identify the star. As long as the spin rate is within a certain margin of error they can assume they are looking at the ri

        • by ackthpt (218170)

          Any addition of mass to a pulsar will change it's spin rate, whether it be a large asteroid or an atom of water. I think the fact that we can detect the change created by something as small as an asteroid is incredibly cool. Besides, it's not the spin rate of the pulsar that would be used for navigation, it would be the object's location. The spin rate is just a convenient marker to identify the star. As long as the spin rate is within a certain margin of error they can assume they are looking at the right star.

          Always remember, the pulsar you see is an emission which was sent out as long ago as is far away, with respect to the speed of light, it has likely traveled on a curved path as everything in the universe is in motion. It is by no means a fixed point.

  • . . . . the gang finds that it was Farmer Brown all the while !!!
  • That black holes are the punchline of every scientific joke.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    The moral of the story? It's not just black holes that get the asteroid munchies.
     
    Massive bodies attract other masses in their local neighborhood? Wow. This is amazing information!

    • by g01d4 (888748)

      Wow. This is amazing information!

      It is, kind of. One might think the area around a pulsar would be fairly cleaned out and you've got to wonder where the asteroid came from and what kicked it in. While we've detected planets and asteroid/dust belts around stars, this might be the smallest extra-solar object ever detected.

  • by slashmydots (2189826) on Friday December 13, 2013 @02:07PM (#45682281)
    If an asteroid "landed" on earth, it wouldn't go back up either. So yeah, this isn't terribly surprising that other massive bodies om nom nom asteroids too.
    • by gl4ss (559668)

      but would we get longer days from massive asteroid collision?

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Yes. We certainly could. There are documented incidents of relatively trivial happenings slowing/speeding the Earth; earthquakes, tsunamis and the like.

      • by Immerman (2627577)

        Depends entirely on if it hits going east or west. If going east it's impact would increase the Earth's spin, shortening the day. Similarly the north or south component will impact the inclination of the Earth's axis depending on the season and whether the impact is on the day or night side of the planet.

    • by fredrated (639554)

      "massive bodies om nom nom asteroids"
      Say what?

  • I wonder what happens to a pulsar when it gets fed a steady stream of matter. Does it collapse further and become something else, or will it burn everything and emit even more gamma? I have always assumed the latter, but from this it seems that the former may be true... Eh, just a random thought that has no place here.. Sorry, continue on.
    • by mythosaz (572040)

      Based on my complete lack of understanding of these sort of objects, I imagine it's a race of sorts -- a contest between whatever intergalactic debris it might suck in versus its rate of burn.

    • by Immerman (2627577)

      I would think that neutron stars likely eject very little matter - any incoming matter gets condensed until protons and electrons fuse into neutrons, which would then be unaffected by any of the electromagnetic disruptions that eject plasma from a "normal" star.

      Hmm, though now I'm wondering how exactly a neutron star can maintain a magnetic field to begin with. Is it assumed to be ionized? Is their some sort of "quark soup" hocus pocus going on in it's core? And Google offers me no easy answers, grr.

  • Stop anthropomorphising inanimate objects. It's patronising to us, and they really hate it.

"From there to here, from here to there, funny things are everywhere." -- Dr. Seuss

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