SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA — Scientists in Australian State of Tasmania have become the first to capture the Vela Pulsar “glitch,” it has been revealed Thursday.
Over 1,000 light years away, the 20-km wide neutron star weighs one and half times the Earth’s sun and like all pulsars, it rotates extremely rapidly, in this case around 11 times per second.
But unknown to scientists, in some cases, a pulsar will abruptly change rotation rates and this is what researchers referred to as a “glitch.”
“No one has ever observed a glitch happen with a radio telescope large enough to see the individual pulses coming from the pulsar,” University of Tasmania PhD candidate Jim Palfreyman said.
With a glitch taking place approximately once every three years, Palfreyman and his colleagues at the CSIRO and the Auckland University of Technology have spent the past four years monitoring the Vela Pulsar for the moment to happen.
“It’s a bit like an earthquake, no one can predict one,” Palfreyman said.
“We knew that if we could capture the glitch and the individual pulses it would provide us a wealth of information, including how matter behaves at extreme temperatures and pressures.”
Using a state of the art 26-metre radio telescope at the Mount Pleasant Observatory in Tasmania along with a 30-metre radio telescope South Australia, it seems Palfreyman and his team may have unlocked the reason for the so called glitch.
“The way the glitch occurs is quite complex where the superfluid core of the star spins separately from the hard crust on the outside,” he explained.
“Then after about three years the core grabs the crust, which is slowing down, and speeds it up, causing the glitch to occur.”
“By capturing the glitch, and the individual pulses, it helps us to better understand the “equation of state, which is how matter behaves in different environments.”