Free Newsletters - Space News - Defense Alert - Environment Report - Energy Monitor
by Staff Writers
Canberra, Australia (SPX) Feb 25, 2014
Scientists using CSIRO's Parkes telescope and another telescope in South Africa have found evidence that a tiny star called PSR J0738-4042 is being pounded by asteroids - large lumps of rock from space. "One of these rocks seems to have had a mass of about a billion tonnes," CSIRO astronomer and member of the research team Dr Ryan Shannon said.
PSR J0738-4042 lies 37,000 light-years from Earth in the constellation of Puppis. The environment around this star is especially harsh, full of radiation and violent winds of particles. "If a large rocky object can form here, planets could form around any star. That's exciting," Dr Shannon said.
The star is a special one, a 'pulsar' that emits a beam of radio waves. As the star spins, its radio beam flashes over Earth again and again with the regularity of a clock. In 2008 Dr Shannon and a colleague predicted how an infalling asteroid would affect a pulsar. It would, they said, alter the slowing of the pulsar's spin rate and the shape of the radio pulse that we see on Earth.
"That is exactly what we see in this case," Dr Shannon said. "We think the pulsar's radio beam zaps the asteroid, vaporising it. But the vaporised particles are electrically charged and they slightly alter the process that creates the pulsar's beam."
Asteroids around a pulsar could be created by the exploding star that formed the pulsar itself, the scientists say. The material blasted out from the explosion could fall back towards the forming pulsar, forming a disk of debris. Astronomers have found a dust disk around another pulsar called J0146+61.
"This sort of dust disk could provide the 'seeds' that grow into larger asteroids," said Mr Paul Brook, a PhD student co-supervised by the University of Oxford and CSIRO who led the study of PSR J0738-4042.
In 1992 two planet-sized objects were found around a pulsar called PSR 1257+12. But these were probably formed by a different mechanism, the astronomers say.
Evidence of an asteroid encountering a pulsar
Astronomy and Space
Asteroid and Comet Mission News, Science and Technology
|The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2014 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement All images and articles appearing on Space Media Network have been edited or digitally altered in some way. Any requests to remove copyright material will be acted upon in a timely and appropriate manner. Any attempt to extort money from Space Media Network will be ignored and reported to Australian Law Enforcement Agencies as a potential case of financial fraud involving the use of a telephonic carriage device or postal service.|