Chinese space telescope to observe Milky Way pulsars, may uncover energy source

China is planning to launch a space telescope, a Hard X-ray Modulation Telescope (HXMT) to unravel the mystery of pulsars in our Milky Way galaxy, according to scientists. They are regarded as the most accurate astronomical clock in the universe.

By: PTI | Beijing | Published:June 3, 2017 2:09 pm
Milky way galaxy, Space telescope, pulsars in Milky way, Hard X-ray Modulation Telescope, Universe accurate astronomical clock To date, scientists have discovered over 2,000 pulsars. The Milky Way is thought to have around 100 million of them. (Source: NASA)

China is planning to launch a space telescope to unravel the mystery of pulsars in our Milky Way galaxy, according to scientists. A pulsar is a highly magnetised, rotating neutron star, which emits two beams of electromagnetic radiation which can be observed only when the beam of emission is pointing towards the Earth.

To date, scientists have discovered over 2,000 pulsars. The Milky Way is thought to have around 100 million of them.”We are still not clear about the interior of pulsars,” said Zhang Shuangnan, lead scientist of the Hard X-ray Modulation Telescope (HXMT).

“Current physical laws cannot describe well the substances in the state of a pulsar, since no lab on Earth can create a density as high as a pulsar. So we have to conduct more observations of pulsars,” said Zhang, director of the Key Laboratory of Particle Astrophysics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

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A pulsar is so strange that when the first one was discovered in 1967, it was mistaken for signals from aliens, ‘Xinhua’ reported. A neutron star is the collapsed core of a large star. They are regarded as the most accurate astronomical clock in the universe.

Scientists believe they can use pulsars as “lighthouses” to help navigation in future interplanetary or interstellar travel. According to Lu Fangjun, chief designer of the payload of HXMT, long-time monitoring of pulsars could help unravel the mystery of their energy sources.

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