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Pune astronomers detect two new millisecond pulsars, advancing our understanding of neutron stars and gravitational waves.
In a groundbreaking discovery, astronomers from Pune have detected two new millisecond pulsars (MSPs), which are rapidly rotating neutron stars. This significant finding was made possible through the application of an innovative technique developed by the Pune-based team during an ongoing sky survey conducted using the Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope (GMRT). MSPs, known for emitting pulses of radiation at regular intervals, offer valuable insights into the properties of neutron stars, the densest bodies in the universe apart from black holes. This discovery not only enhances our understanding of these celestial objects but also contributes to the search for gravitational wave backgrounds.
Understanding Millisecond Pulsars
Millisecond pulsars are compact and incredibly dense neutron stars that form when a massive star, like our Sun, undergoes a collapse. These pulsars emit radiation in pulses, hence the name, and have extremely short periods, emitting radiations every few milliseconds. Their unique properties allow scientists to gather crucial information about neutron stars and explore various astrophysical phenomena. The study of millisecond pulsars plays a significant role in the field of astronomy, particularly in the detection of gravitational waves.
The Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope (GMRT)
The Pune-based team conducted their research using the Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope (GMRT), which is the world’s largest low-frequency radio telescope. Operated by the TIFR-National Centre for Radio Astrophysics (NCRA), the GMRT is located approximately 80 km from Pune city. With its advanced capabilities, the GMRT enables astronomers to observe celestial objects in the radio frequency range with exceptional precision and clarity.
Advancements in Detection Techniques
To achieve their groundbreaking discovery, the astronomers employed a novel technique known as gated imaging. This technique offers higher precision in timing the incoming pulses emitted by millisecond pulsars. Unlike standard imaging techniques, which are time-consuming, gated imaging provides a more efficient means of studying pulsar parameters. By precisely calculating the location of the new MSPs using this technique, the researchers have further contributed to international programs focused on detecting gravitational wave backgrounds.
Research Findings and Enhancements
As part of the ongoing GMRT-High-Resolution Southern Sky (GHRSS) survey, led by Bhaswati Bhattarcharya, the NCRA team successfully discovered 30 new pulsars, including the two millisecond pulsars. These findings were then studied in detail by Shyam Sundar, a PhD student, utilizing the newly developed technique. Remarkably, this technique allowed for a significant 3,000-fold improvement in fixing the positional uncertainty of the pulsars. Moreover, recent upgrades in the operating bandwidth of GHRSS have enhanced its sensitivity, enabling the detection of even fainter millisecond pulsars.
Implications and Future Prospects
The discovery of these two new millisecond pulsars marks a significant milestone in our quest to understand the mysteries of the universe. By expanding our knowledge of neutron stars and their emission patterns, scientists can glean insights into the fundamental properties of matter under extreme conditions. Furthermore, the presence of a significant population of MSPs in a particular region increases the likelihood of detecting gravitational waves, a field of research that holds immense promise in unraveling the secrets of the cosmos.
The recent breakthrough made by Pune astronomers in detecting two new millisecond pulsars through the utilization of a cutting-edge technique highlights their dedication to advancing our understanding of the cosmos. By leveraging the power of the Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope and implementing innovative methodologies, the team has contributed significantly to the field of astrophysics. This discovery not only enriches our knowledge of millisecond pulsars but also brings us closer to unraveling the enigmatic nature of neutron stars and the universe itself.