Discovering 10 New Millisecond Pulsars in Terzan 5 Globular Cluster: An Astronomical Breakthrough

Astronomers from the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics in Hannover, Germany, have discovered ten new millisecond pulsars (MSPs) in the globular cluster Terzan 5, making it the most pulsar-rich globular cluster known to date. The discovery was achieved using the MeerKAT radio telescope and was reported in a research paper published on the pre-print server arXiv.

MSPs are a type of neutron star, which are highly magnetized and rotate rapidly, emitting a beam of electromagnetic radiation. They are thought to form in binary systems when the initially more massive component becomes a neutron star and is then spun up due to the accretion of matter from the secondary star.

Terzan 5 is a globular cluster located in the Milky Way’s bulge, approximately 18,800 light years away. It has a radius of 2.7 light years and a mass of around 2 million solar masses. It is one of the most widely studied globular clusters due to its age, estimated to be 12 billion years old, and its rich population of pulsars, including MSPs.

The study’s lead author, Prajwal Padmanabh, and his team used the MeerKAT radio telescope to observe Terzan 5 with the hope of identifying new pulsars in the cluster. They discovered ten new MSPs, nine of which are in binary systems. This brings the total number of pulsars in Terzan 5 to 49, the highest number for any known globular cluster.

The spin periods of the newly discovered MSPs range from 1.25 to 4.54 milliseconds, and their dispersion measures are similar, within a range of 235.44–239.46 pc/cm3. The team was able to determine the characteristic age for five of the pulsars, which ranged from 1.3 to 3.18 billion years.

Interesting among the new discoveries is MSP Ter5ao, which has a large minimum companion mass of approximately 0.69 solar masses and a rapid spin period. This suggests that it could be a rare double neutron star (DNS) system. Other new pulsars, Ter5au, Ter5ap, Ter5av, and Ter5ax, likely have white dwarf companions with minimum masses ranging from 0.07 to 0.28 solar masses.

This discovery expands the understanding of pulsars and globular clusters, and further studies on Terzan 5 may uncover even more such objects, as it is estimated that the cluster may contain up to 200 pulsars. The findings also underline the importance and capabilities of the MeerKAT radio telescope in advancing the field of radio astronomy.

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