What would life be like on a planet orbiting a pulsar? Astronomers estimate that the Milky Way galaxy contains an estimated 1 billion neutron stars, of which about 200,000 are pulsars –neutron stars of only 10 to 30 kilometers in diameter with enormous magnetic fields, that accrete matter and regularly burst out large amounts of X-rays and other energetic particles. So far, 3000 pulsars have been studied and only 5 pulsar planets have been found. In 1992, the first exoplanets ever were discovered around pulsar PSR B1257+12.
“Beautiful as it is, our Universe is constantly evolving, often through violent events like the Milky Way’s forthcoming collision with the Large Magellanic Cloud,” said Carlos Frenk, Director of the Institute for Computational Cosmology at the University of Durham. “Barring any disasters, like a major disturbance to the Solar System, our descendants, if any, are in for a treat: a spectacular display of cosmic fireworks as the newly awakened supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy, Sagittarius A*, reacts by emitting jets of extremely bright energetic radiation.”
This week’s “Heard in the Milky Way” episode, narrated by dailygalaxy.com founder, Val Landi, takes you on a journey with two stories that change our knowledge of Planet Earth, our Galaxy, and the vast cosmos beyond.
“Our results address a fundamental quest of humanity: Where did we come from and where are we going? It is very difficult to describe the tremendous emotions we felt when realized what we had found and what it means for the future as we search for an explanation of our place in the universe,” said astrophysicist Szabolcs Marka at Columbia University about the discovery of a violent collision of two neutron stars 4.6 billion years ago as the likely source of some of the most coveted matter on Earth.
There are several hundred billion stars in our Milky Way Galaxy. At a conservative estimate, several billion of them are orbited by planets capable of supporting life. There may be more habitable planets in the Galaxy than there are people on planet Earth. But our human eyes are hopelessly inadequate for revealing the true nature of the Galaxy.