Milky Way: Manchester astronomers find a mysterious object

  • Written by Nina Massey
  • Science Reporter PA

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The object was discovered using the MeerKAT radio telescope array in South Africa

Astronomers have discovered a new object in the Milky Way Galaxy, heavier than the heaviest neutron stars known to scientists, but lighter than the lightest black holes known.

Researchers in Manchester and Germany found that it orbits a millisecond pulsar, 40,000 light-years away.

Millisecond pulsars spin very quickly – hundreds of times per second.

Project leader Ben Stubbers, professor of astrophysics at the University of Manchester, said it was “exciting”.

Researchers from the University of Manchester and the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn believe that this may be the first discovery of a radio star and black hole binary, a conjunction that may allow new tests of Einstein's general relativity and open doors for study. Of black holes.

Professor Stubbers added: “The pulsating black hole system will be an important target for testing theories of gravity, and the heavy neutron star will provide new insights into nuclear physics at very high densities.”

When a neutron star — the ultra-dense remnant of a dead star — gains too much mass, it will collapse.

What they become next is the cause of much speculation, but it is thought they could become black holes.

“Collective gap”

The total mass needed to collapse a neutron star is thought to be 2.2 times the mass of the Sun.

The lightest black holes created by these stars are much larger – about five times the mass of the Sun – leading to what is known as the “black hole mass gap.”

The nature of the objects in this mass gap is unknown and difficult to study.

The researchers say the latest discovery could help scientists finally understand these things.

The object was discovered while observing a large group of stars known as NGC 1851, located in the southern constellation Columba, using the Meerkat radio telescope array in South Africa.

Astronomers say it is so crowded that stars can interact with each other, disrupting orbits and in extreme cases colliding.

They believe that a collision between two neutron stars may have created the massive object that now orbits the radio pulsar.

While the team can't say definitively whether they've discovered the most massive neutron star to date, the lightest black hole or even a new type of exotic star, they have discovered something that will help probe the properties of matter under the most extreme conditions in Earth. Universe. being.

The results were published in the journal Science.

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