“Life Beyond Our Imagining?” — Exoplanets of Neutron Stars

Neutron Star Geminga


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.


“The Black Widow” –Neutron Star in Exotic ‘Spider’ Pulsar System


Black Widow Neutron Star


In 1967, Jocelyn Bell, then a graduate student in astronomy at Cambridge University, noticed a strange signal, a series of sharp pulses that came every 1.3 seconds, in the data of her radio telescope that seemed too fast to be coming from anything like a star. Bell and her advisor Anthony Hewish initially thought they might have detected a signal from an extraterrestrial civilization that they named LGM-1, for “Little Green Men.” (It was later renamed.) It turned out not to be aliens, but rather the discovery of the first pulsar.


“Mapping Ghosts” — Ancient Pulsars, Objects So Dense They Warp Spacetime

NASA Pulsar


Astrophysicists are radically expanding our knowledge of image of pulsars, the ancient remains of exploded stars so dense their gravity warps nearby space-time, using NASA’s Neutron star Interior Composition Explorer (NICER), an X-ray telescope aboard the International Space Station to create the first-ever map of million-degree hot spots on the surface of J0030 in an isolated region of space 1,100 light-years away in the constellation Pisces.