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Using the South African MeerKAT radio telescope, a team of astronomers found eight millisecond pulsars in globular clusters with high star density. Millisecond pulsars are neutron stars, the densest known stars that rotate up to 700 times per second around their axis. The findings are based on research conducted at the MeerKAT telescope by two international collaborations, TRAPUM and MeerTIME.

Millisecond pulsars are incredibly compact stars made up of neutrons that are among the universe's most remarkable artifacts. They pack hundreds of thousands of times the mass of the earth into a sphere with a diameter of around 24 km. These usually spin at hundreds of revolutions per second around their axis.

South Africa's MeerKAT Telescope Discovered Two Giant Radio Galaxies
(Photo : Wikimedia Commons)
MeerKAT Radio Telescope

Like a lighthouse beacon, they emit a pulse of radio waves that streaks the observer with each rotation. High star density conditions in the centers of globular clusters favor the creation of these objects.

Experts uploaded their study entitled "Eight New Millisecond Pulsars From the First Meerkat Globular Cluster Census," at the monthly notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

How Experts Discovered the New Pulsars

First author Alessandro Ridolfi said in a statement that they aligned the sea-kat antennas at nine globular clusters and discovered new pulsars in six of them. Ridofil works as a post-doc at the Italian National Institute of Astrophysics (INAF) and the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy (MPIfR).

Each of the five new pulsars orbits a different star, with PSR J1823-3021G proving to be especially important.

Tasha Gautam, a PhD student at the MPIfR in Bonn and a co-author of the paper, clarified that this pulsar might have a large mass, more than twice that of the sun.

 Still, it could also be the first confirmed system containing a millisecond pulsar and a neutron star. If the latest additional observations support this, Gautam believes this millisecond pulsar would be an excellent test ground for new fundamental physics insights.

ALSO READ: South Africa's MeerKAT Telescope Discovered Two Giant Radio Galaxies 

Latest Discovery Just Tip of the Iceberg

The eight new pulsars are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of discoveries.

About 40 of the 64 MeerKAT antennas were used in the observations that led to their discovery, Phys.org said. They were only based on the central regions of globular clusters.

MeerKAT is expected to discover hundreds of new millisecond pulsars over the next few years, experts said. It will give us a glimpse of what will be possible once the SKA Observatory's mid-frequency antennas are fully operational. They went on to say that this would change many aspects of astrophysics, including the study of pulsars.

Ridolfi, Gautam, and Possenti are part of the TRAnsients and PUlsars with MeerKAT (TRAPUM) collaboration. It's a large study for MeerKAT with an extensive international collaboration of astronomers who are enthusiastic about the possibilities that MeerKAT provides. They shared telescope time for this project to research already known pulsars with unprecedented precision.

This study acted as a model experiment for the TRAPUM collaboration to better prepare a full-fledged globular cluster survey to find new pulsars.

Further Studies Underway

Using all 64 parabolic levels from MeerKAT, such sampling is currently underway (further increasing sensitivity). It will broaden the quest to include a larger number of globular clusters and quantify their outer regions.

Experts claim that many bizarre and intense double pulsars have already been discovered in previous search programs for pulsars in globular clusters.

We will undoubtedly be able to discover more of these extreme structures with new instruments like MeerKAT, which will reveal more about the fundamental laws of our universe "Paulo Freire, another co-author of THE MPIfR, sums it up.

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