View Full Version : Could the Earth share a feature with neutron stars?

08-26-12, 06:30 PM
http://cdn.arstechnica.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/anomalous_pulsar-640x470.jpg X-ray image of the pulsar PSR J1740+1000 and its vicinity. Redder shades are lower energy X-rays, while bluer colors are higher energy. The entire image spans about 5.3 light years.
O. Kargaltsev

Neutron stars provide some of the most extreme environments in the Universe. Massive as ordinary stars but smaller than a city, they are more dense than atomic nuclei. Most neutron stars we've identified are pulsars, which send out beams of intense light due to their rapid rotation and strong magnetic fields. Pulsars in general appear to lack atmospheres, but a few anomalous neutron stars have been found. These show signs of absorption, which suggests some atmosphere, and lack strong pulsar effects; a few lack strong magnetic fields as well.

To make matters more complicated, researchers have now found that the pulsar PSR¬*J1740+1000 appears to combine the features of ordinary pulsars‚??and the anomalous ones as well. As described in a Nature paper by Oleg Kargaltsev, Martin Durant, Zdenka Misanovic, and George G. Pavlov, this neutron star is a normal radio pulsar like others in many ways. However, it exhibits clear absorption lines in its X-ray spectrum. The authors suggest that the absorption could be due to a structure similar to Earth's van Allen radiation belts.

The light emitted by pulsars is the product of both thermal emission from their surfaces, and non-thermal emission from charged particles accelerated by the magnetic field. Neutron stars exhibit surface temperatures of hundreds of thousands to millions of Kelvins (105‚??106 K), far hotter than a typical star that's powered by fusion.

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