In a cluster of stars in the outer limits of the galaxy, astronomers discovered a dense cosmic body whose mass is twice that of the Sun.
They suggest that it could be the heaviest neutron star or the lightest black hole, according to a study published in Science, writes Science Alert.
“Any possibility for the nature of this object is exciting. The pulsar-black hole system will be an important target for testing theories of gravity, and the heavy neutron star will provide new insights into nuclear physics at very high densities.”says astrophysicist Ben Steppers from the University of Manchester.
Scientists explained that neutron stars and black holes are very closely related. Both objects are superdense and formed as a result of the gravitational collapse of the core of a massive star as it dies.
|Photo: Gladys Kober/Catholic University of America
An international team of researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy discovered this object while studying a strange millisecond pulsar called PSR J0514-4002E. It is located in the star cluster NGC 1851, which is located about 54 thousand light years from the galactic center.
The object has a mass equivalent of 2.09 to 2.71 Suns and “dances in orbit” with a millisecond pulsar (that is, it is a source of pulsating electromagnetic radiation). As it rotates, such a star emits radio waves at precisely defined time intervals. PSR J0514-4002E rotates 170 times per second.
“Think of it as being able to drop a near-perfect stopwatch into orbit around a star nearly 40,000 light-years away, and then be able to time those orbits to the nearest microsecond.” – explains astrophysicist Evan Barr.
Using the pulsar timing data, the researchers were able to calculate the distance to PSR J0514-4002E, the mass of the pulsar, the system as a whole, and the cosmic body.
The object is too faint to be a young star (that is, formed from a cloud of gas and dust and became visible), and too massive to be a white dwarf. Therefore, scientists assume that this object is a neutron star or a black hole.
“Revealing the true nature of the object will be a turning point in our understanding of neutron stars, black holes, and everything else that might be lurking in a black hole’s mass rift.”– noted scientist Arunima Dutta.
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