Space-Time Warp Has Temporarily Made a Pulsar Disappear: Scientists

Space-Time Warp Has Temporarily Made a Pulsar Disappear from View
Space-Time Warp Has Temporarily Made a Pulsar Disappear from View

NASA has determined that the pulsar from a binary star system, once visible to observers, has effectively disappeared as the result of a geodetic precession from a nearby space-time warp. Admittedly, that’s a mouthful of scientific jargon.

The international team, including University of British Columbia astronomer Ingrid Stairs, measured the masses of both stars in binary pulsar system J1906. The pulsar spins and emits a lighthouse-like beam of radio waves every 144 milliseconds. It orbits its companion star in a little under four hours.

A pulsar is a “pulsating star” that is likely the remnant of a once massive star that has undergone a supernova which is an event when a star collapses into itself. The pulsar in question is part of the J1906 binary star system. A binary star system in consists of exactly two stars rotating about their common center of mass.

What observers had determined is the J1906 binary star system had a short four-hour rotation. They were using a radio telescope to pick up the highly magnetic signals the pulsar emits and using the information to determine what type of companion star completes the binary star system. It was at this time the pulsar disappeared. Scientists believe the pulsar drew too close to a nearby space-time warp that has now attracted its magnetic impulses preventing them from reaching earth in what is called a “geodetic precession”.

“By precisely tracking the motion of the pulsar, we were able to measure the gravitational interaction between the two highly compact stars with extreme precision,” says Stairs, professor of physics and astronomy at UBC.

One orbit of pulsar J1906 (on the right, with radio beams) around its companion (centered), with space-time curvature (blue grid). Credit: Joeri van Leeuwen (click to expand)
One orbit of pulsar J1906 (on the right, with radio beams) around its companion (centered), with space-time curvature (blue grid). Credit: Joeri van Leeuwen (click to expand)

“These two stars each weigh more than the Sun, but are still over 100 times closer together than the Earth is to the Sun. The resulting extreme gravity causes many remarkable effects.”

It is believed that once the pulsar completes the current rotation it is in, they will once again be able to observe it. However, it will likely be a different generation of astronomers that will study this particular binary star system. This is because the pulsar isn’t expected to emerge from the warp for another 160 years.

“Through the effects of the immense mutual gravitational pull, the spin axis of the pulsar has now wobbled so much that the beams no longer hit Earth,” explains Joeri van Leeuwen, an astrophysicist at the Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy, and University of Amsterdam, who led the study.

“The pulsar is now all but invisible to even the largest telescopes on Earth. This is the first time such a young pulsar has disappeared through precession. Fortunately this cosmic spinning top is expected to wobble back into view, but it might take as long as 160 years.”

As for the two stars in question, they are believed to consist of highly compressed matter with each star weighing more than the sun. At the same time, their proximity to one another is closer than the distance between the earth and the sun. The star system resides 25,000 light years from earth. At this time, not even the largest telescopes on the planet can see the pulsar.

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Sean is a London (Ontario) based writer, and has been writing full-time for eCanadaNow since May of 2005, covering Canadian topics and world issues. Since 2009, Sean has been the lead editor for eCanadaNow. Prior to his work writing and editing for the eCanadaNow, he worked as a freelancer for several Canadian newspapers.. You can contact Sean at {Sean at] Google

10 thoughts on “Space-Time Warp Has Temporarily Made a Pulsar Disappear: Scientists

  1. “A space time warp? Really? Nobody really KNOWS whats going on out there…” I agree. In a way I feel they are trying to justify the money being spent on research. In other words, they have to show results. But I actually feel more money needs to be spent because the old burning combustible fuel way of traveling has long term consequences. And as it relates to space it wont get you out of your back yard in a reasonable amount of time.

  2. Truth is they do not know. And what’s scarier is what happens when they find the thing that they should not be looking for. The truth scares me…….

  3. holy crap you people are uneducated. instead of trashing something because you are to inept to understand, try doing some research. i will give you that this article was very poorly written, but it is completely factual. learn a thing or two about physics. you might get through life with a little more appreciation.

  4. Changes in space time are a very ordinary thing. The GPS satellites that help you navigate to a new place have to have their signals compensated for the fact that time flows faster where they are orbiting because they are farther away from the mass of the earth. You believe in viruses, don’t you, even though they are too small to see? So even though this time change, related to mass, is not something we can see, it’s a fact of life for everyone.

  5. Guys, guys. Take what you read with a grain of salt. It was only seen by radio telescope and only because it’s beam was pointing right at us. The possiable explaination is interaction with it’s companoin might explain it now pointing slightly away so we cant see the beam (like a flashlight). Nothing mysterious here .P

  6. We are all in Space-time idiots; im typing in space and time is passing. A warp can occur with heavy gravity but you wouldnt want to learn an hours worth of astronomy so you just sit here and cry foul. Shame on you commentors

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