Researchers have successfully mapped the topography of both the magnetic poles of a pulsar using Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity.
As one of the most exotic objects in the universe, second only to black holes, pulsars are rapidly rotating neutron stars that have the strongest magnetic fields in the Universe. Pulsars also emit radio emissions from their magnetic poles.
The research paper that was published in Science by Gregory Desvingnes, Michael Kramer and several other researchers from Germany, France, UK, China, Netherlands and Canada.
Professor Andrew Lyne, of the University of Manchester, as a contributor to the study, used the Lovell telescope at the Jordrell Bank Observatory to first determine the nature of the system. Professor Lyne said: “This pulsar, known as PSR J1906+0746, is a member of a binary system with another neutron star. The extreme gravitational environment of the two neutron stars causes spacetime to be distorted. This in turn causes the pulsar to precess, changing the angle we view the radio emission and thus allowing us to map out the emission.”
Professor of Astrophysics, Benjamin Stappers from the University of Manchester said: “This pulsar is expected to precess so far that in 2028 the pulsar will no longer be visible from Earth and we will continue to monitor it with our telescopes including the Lovell Telescope at Jodrell Bank Observatory up to that point to see what more we can learn from this interesting system.”
Gregory Desvignes from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, said: “PSR J1906+0746 is a unique laboratory in which we can simultaneously constrain the radio pulsar emission physics and test Einstein’s theory of general relativity”, says Gregory Desvignes. “These results show that the emission beam is not round as might be expected, but elongated.”
“The experiment took us a long time to complete, but was well worth the investment in telescope time”, concludes Michael Kramer, Director of MPIfR and University of Manchester affiliated Professor.