Researchers report that they have detected unusual pulses being generated by a celestial object that could help them unveil new clues about its behavior.
What researchers characterize as “dwarf pulses” produced by the object, a distant pulsar known as PSR B2111+46, were detected using the Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Radio Telescope (FAST), according to a new study led by Prof. Jinlin Han from the National Astronomical Observatories of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (NAOC).
Astronomers believe pulsars are neutron stars, a variety of celestial object with a very small radius and high density, but which rotate rapidly and produce pulses of electromagnetic and other radiation.
As some pulsars age, their emissions sometimes slow or cease altogether for periods, which astronomers call pulse nulling, a phenomenon that is believed to occur when conditions within the object’s magnetosphere limit the production of particles. Another possibility is that particle generation may be overwhelmed by another factor: the production of plasma nearby.
Astronomers remain divided on the precise reasons for the absence of pulsar radiation during these periods where pulse nulling occurs, and when their radiation is suppressed in this way, it makes it difficult to tease out information about their behavior and dynamics.
PSR B2111+46 is known to be an older pulsar based on past observations of pulse nulling it has exhibited. That is until just a few years ago when over the course of observations that occurred between August 24 and September 17, 2020, the object was observed to produce dozens of strange, weak, and extremely narrow pulses.
The observations were made during the Galactic Plane Pulsar Snapshot survey, one of the premier efforts to locate and study pulsars with FAST.
More recently, on March 8, 2022, Han and his team once again succeeded in detecting weak “dwarf pulses” from PSR B2111+46 over a period of just two hours, allowing…