FAST New Discovery! The shortest pulsar with the shortest orbital period appears

The Chinese Sky Eye FAST “caught” the “poisonous spider”.

On June 21, 2023, the international academic journal Nature published an important result of Jiang Peng’s research team at the National Astronomical Observatory of the Chinese Academy of Sciences online. The team used China’s Sky Eye FAST to discover a binary star called PSR J1953+1844 (M71E), which has an orbital period of only 53 minutes, which is the shortest pulsar binary system currently discovered. The discovery fills in a missing link in the evolutionary model of the “spider pulsar” system.

According to reports, the paper was published online in the form of “accelerated preview”, which means that the research results have been highly praised by peers and the editorial office of the journal.

In this regard, Jiang Peng, one of the corresponding authors of the paper and executive deputy director of the FAST Operation and Development Center of the National Astronomical Observatory, told the “China Science News” reporter: “With the cooperation of our large team, the paper manuscript processing took more than a year, and some revisions and iterations were made in the process. Reviewers highly recognize the scientific content, so that there is such a fast acceptance process. ”

Renderings of research results (Courtesy of National Astronomical Observatory)

From “Red Back” to “Black Widow”

“Redback” and “Black Widow” are two famous poisonous spiders in the world, and astronomers have named pulsars after them.

A pulsar is a rotating star that gets its name from the constant emission of electromagnetic pulse signals. Astronomical observations have found that some pulsars are in binary systems, orbiting with other stars.

Pan Zhichen, co-first author of the paper and associate researcher at the National Astronomical Observatory of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, introduced that in a binary star system, if two stars are close together, the pulsar will swallow the material of the star next to it, making itself faster and faster. Due to the large initial mass of the star, as the pulsar “cannibalizes” the star, the closer the two stars get closer and closer and rotate faster and faster with each other. As binary star systems evolve, stars become less massive after being cannibalized, and pulsars are difficult to continue accreting and pushing stars apart, and their rotation around each other slows down.

In the eyes of astronomers, this behavior of pulsars is similar to the behavior of female spiders devouring male spiders in nature to feed themselves. Therefore, they collectively call such objects spider pulsars, while pulsars called “redbacks” and “black spiders” have different masses and orbital periods and can evolve over hundreds of millions of years.

Previously, astronomers had only detected systems in the “redback” and “black widow” states, but never found an intermediate state in which the two evolved.

“The reason is that pulsars at this stage have a very short orbital period and the two stars are very close together, which poses a great challenge to observation.” Han Jinlin, one of the corresponding authors of the paper and a researcher at the National Astronomical Observatory, said. That is, the theory of the evolution of spider pulsars from the “redback” to the “black widow” system has not been fully confirmed.

Extremely strong detection ability

In a newly published paper, observations from China’s Tianyan FAST confirm this theory of evolution.

The research team used the Chinese Sky Eye FAST to detect the M71E binary star system, and after long-term observation, it was determined that the time for the two stars of this system to orbit was only 53 minutes, which is the fastest spider pulsar system that has been found to orbit. This was identified as being in the middle of the evolution of the “redback” to “black widow” system, filling in the missing link in the spider pulsar evolution theory.

“We named it the ‘Huamei Kou Spider’, which is a spider distributed in China, which is similar in appearance to the red-backed and black widows, but not the same.” Pan Zhichen said.

At the same time, the researchers saw that the orbital plane of the binary star system is almost towards the Earth, which is extremely rare, and look forward to further research to make more discoveries.

“This study relies entirely on the ultra-high sensitivity and extremely strong detection capabilities of China’s Sky Eye FAST.” Pan Zhichen said.

As the world’s largest single-aperture and most sensitive radio telescope with China’s independent intellectual property rights, China Sky Eye FAST has achieved a number of research results of important scientific value in the fields of pulsar discovery, fast radio bursts, neutral hydrogen and other research fields. Eight papers resulting from these research results were published in Nature and two in Science.

Jiang Peng said: “As far as we can see, we see the sea of stars, but every step we take is down-to-earth. ”

Attracted widespread attention

This research result was completed with the cooperation of a number of domestic and foreign units and researchers. The co-first authors of the paper include Pan Zhichen, assistant researcher Lu Jiguang of the National Astronomical Observatory, and Chen Hailiang, researcher of the Yunnan Astronomical Observatory, and the corresponding authors include Jiang Peng, Han Jinlin, and Zhang Bing, professor of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

The collaborators came from Guizhou Radio Astronomy Observatory of Guizhou University, Yunnan Astronomical Observatory of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Shanghai Astronomical Observatory of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, National Time Center of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Peking University, University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Max Planck Institute in Germany, University of Nevada, Las Vegas and many other domestic and foreign units.

This research has attracted widespread attention among peers at home and abroad. The reviewers of the journal Nature commented that the results were the discovery of a very interesting pulsar binary system; This discovery shortened the record for the shortest orbital period of pulsar binary systems by about 30 % , indicating a new unknown process in the evolution of spider pulsars.

Han Zhanwen, researcher at the Yunnan Astronomical Observatory of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said that this discovery has not only made important contributions to the field of astrophysics, but also further expanded our identification with the universe. “We are proud of this important achievement of China Tianyan FAST and look forward to more discoveries of the mysteries of the universe in the future.” He said. (Source: China Science News Gan Xiao)

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