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Mysterious White Dwarf Pulsar Discovered: The Size Of Earth But 200,000 Times Heavier

The first of its kind ever to be discovered in the universe.

08/02/2017 10:47

It’s not often that scientists discover something that has never been seen before, so when it does happen it’s a rather special event.

Well scientists at Warwick University have discovered just that, an astonishing white dwarf pulsar some 380 light-years away in the AR Sco system.

Mark Garlick/University of Warwick

While we know these bizarre objects exist in the universe they have never been discovered before, until now that is.

What makes the discovery particularly special is that the pulsar is located in a binary system alongside a giant red dwarf. The white dwarf then lashes out at its neighbour causing the entire system to brighten and then fade dramatically every two minutes.

The mysterious white dwarf is an astonishing creation of science. Despite being around the same size as Earth, its mass is some 200,000 times greater.

It then orbits around a star (the red dwarf) at an incredible rate of once every 3.6 hours.

Like many other pulsars too its electromagnetic field is unfathomably large - 100 million times more powerful than that found on Earth. It also spins unbelievably fast making a full rotation every two minutes.

Ho New / Reuters
This pulsar with a diameter of 12 miles, is spinning around almost 7 times a second and has a magnetic field at its surface estimated to be 15 trillion times stronger than the Earth's magnetic field.

Professor Boris Gänsicke of the University of Warwick’s Astrophysics Group comments, “AR Sco is like a gigantic dynamo: a magnet, size of the Earth, with a field that is ~10.000 stronger than any field we can produce in a laboratory, and it is rotating every two minutes. This generates an enormous electric current in the companion star, which then produces the variations in the light we detect.”

 

 

The result is something akin to a lighthouse, sending out blinding flashes of light and radiation deep into the surrounding space.

Incredibly AR Sco is so powerful that it’s believed that those lashes of power are in fact providing kinetic energy to sustain the red dwarf, linking the two in an almost unbreakable bond.

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