In The Field

AAS 2009: Fermi finds new pulsar classes

In just a matter of months, the Fermi gamma ray observatory since its launch has found dozens of new pulsars — spinning, magnetized remnants of supernovae — that emit a flashing signal in the gamma-ray part of the spectrum only. This new class of pulsar has revolutionized scientists’ view of its general structure: Early in a pulsar’s lifetime, it blasts a broad gamma-ray signal rather than a narrow polar one, as was previously thought. The findings, announced Tuesday at AAS, also includes a club within a club: a subclass of the gamma-ray-only pulsars that flash exceptionally quickly, an indication that they are revving up as they partially devour their dying partners in binary star systems. 


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