ESA’s XMM-Newton has found a pulsar – the spinning remains of a once-massive star – that is a thousand times brighter than previously thought possible.
The pulsar is also the most distant of its kind ever detected, with its light travelling 50 million light-years before being detected by XMM-Newton.
Pulsars are spinning, magnetised neutron stars that sweep regular pulses of radiation in two symmetrical beams across the cosmos. If suitably aligned with Earth these beams are like a lighthouse beacon appearing to flash on and off as it rotates. They were once massive stars that exploded as a powerful supernova at the end of their natural life, before becoming small and extraordinarily dense stellar corpses.
This X-ray source is the most luminous of its type detected to date: it is 10 times brighter than the previous record holder. In one second it emits the same amount of energy released by our Sun in 3.5 years. … (ESA)