Discovered in 1967, pulsars are remnants of massive stars that emit flickering beams of electromagnetic radiation, which can be useful for guiding spacecraft.
An international research team using the Australian telescope with a new method has discovered the brightest known extragalactic pulsar.
Researchers on Tuesday revealed that by using a new observation technique akin to astronomical version of "sunglasses" with the Australian Square Kilometer Array Pathfinder (ASKAP) radio telescope, they found a new pulsar 10 times brighter than any other detected outside of our Milky Way Galaxy.
Discovered in 1967, pulsars are remnants of massive stars that emit flickering beams of electromagnetic radiation, which can be useful for guiding spacecraft. The new pulsar was discovered by researchers from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), who used a new technique that captures polarized light.
"This was an amazing surprise. I didn't expect to find a new pulsar, let alone the brightest. But with the new telescopes we now have access to, like ASKAP and its sunglasses, it really is possible," said Wang Yuanming, a CSIRO researcher and lead author of the research.
Celebrating #LSP20th, #OTD 2015, NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope detected the first extragalactic gamma-ray pulsar near the Tarantula Nebula. @NASA_LSP launched Fermi in 2008.Learn more - https://t.co/NPmVPhmxI1, https://t.co/LKtLsSZTep pic.twitter.com/Aknva34ENc— NASA's Launch Services Program (@NASA_LSP) November 12, 2018
After seeing hints of the pulsar on ASKAP data, the team then confirmed its existence with the South African Radio Astronomy Observatory's MeerKAT radio telescope. Previously pulsars could only be discovered by identifying their flickering light in telescope data, an unreliable method that could miss those that flicker too fast or too slow.
By instead looking for polarized light, pulsars with a wide range of flickering timing can be found. Elaine Sadler, chief scientist of CSIRO's Australia Telescope National Facility, described the discovery as incredible.
"This speaks to all the great things we can expect from our telescopes and researchers as they constantly find new ways to answer some of our biggest questions. From the Australia Telescope Compact Array to ASKAP, the Australia National Telescope Facility continues to provide wonderful access to our Universe," she said.