NASA to Announce Spinning Star Discoveries Thursday

An artist's conception of the pulsar at the center of the Crab Nebula, with a Hubble Space Telescope photo of the nebula in the background.
An artist's conception of the pulsar at the center of the Crab Nebula, with a Hubble Space Telescope photo of the nebula in the background. Researchers using the VERITAS telescope array have discovered pulses of high-energy gamma rays coming from this object. (Image credit: David A. Aguilar / NASA / ESA)

NASA will announce new discoveries about strange, super-dense spinning stars called pulsars on Thursday (Nov. 3).

The space agency will hold a press conference at 2 p.m. EDT (1800 GMT) on Thursday to discuss the new findings, which were made with the help of NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope, officials said in a media advisory.

Pulsars form when massive stars die in supernova explosions and their remnants collapse into compact objects made only of particles called neutrons. When a mass weighing as much as the sun is packed into a tiny space the size of a city, the conserved angular momentum causes the resulting neutron star to spin very rapidly, and to emit a ray of high-energy light that sweeps around like a lighthouse beam.

Astronomers can detect this light, making a pulsar the closest thing to a black hole that scientists can observe directly, officials said. Some pulsars spin at tens of thousands of revolutions per minute, faster than the blades of a kitchen blender.

Participants in Thursday's press conference are:

  • Paulo Freire, astrophysicist, Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany
  • Pablo Saz Parkinson, astrophysicist, University of California at Santa Cruz
  • Bruce Allen, director, Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics in Hanover, Germany
  • Victoria Kaspi, physics professor, McGill University in Montreal

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