Astronomers have used NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, telescope to discover a dead star, which appears to be burning with the energy of about 10 million suns. This “shockingly bright” star, according to scientists, is the brightest pulsar — a dense remnant of a supernova explosion — ever recorded.
The dead star was found in the galaxy Messier 82, or M82, which is about 12 million light-years away from Earth. The star’s exceptional brightness has helped astronomers classify it as an ultraluminous X-ray, or ULX source — an object that is believed to be more luminous than any known stellar process. The results of the discovery were published in the journal Nature on Thursday.
“You might think of this pulsar as the ‘Mighty Mouse’ of stellar remnants,” Fiona Harrison, NuSTAR principal investigator at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, California, said in a statement. “It has all the power of a black hole, but with much less mass.”
According to the researchers, the latest discovery was a bit of a surprise as NuSTAR was not initially used to study ULXs in the M82 galaxy. While observing a recent supernova in the galaxy, astronomers coincidentally noticed pulses of extremely bright X-rays coming from a nearby location, which eventually turned out to be M82 X-2, one of the two known ULX sources in the galaxy.
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