Science and Life
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  Pulsar burns longest ever cosmic trail
An ultrafast moving pulsar has shot out from its supernova shell and left the longest ever 'smoke' trail to be seen by astronomers.

Dr Stephen Ng of the University of Sydney and colleagues report their findings in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.

In 1987, astronomers using the University of Sydney's Molonglo Observatory Synthesis Telescope, discovered an odd "frying pan" shaped structure some 24,000 light years away.

The "pan" of the structure is known to be a supernova remnant, left over from a star that exploded some 100,000 years ago.

But, until now, no one really knew what the "handle" was.

Using CSIRO's Parkes radio telescope in New South Wales, Ng and colleagues picked up the telltale radio wave pulses of a neutron star at the tip of the handle.

A neutron star, also known as a pulsar, is the cold core left over from an exploding star.

According to Ng the newly discovered pulsar is very small and dense. It has a mass equivalent to the Sun yet its diameter is smaller than the city of Sydney, and is travelling incredibly fast.

"It could travel from Sydney to Melbourne in less than a second," says Ng.

He says the pulsar has created a very long trail of high energy particles that emit radio waves, which were also picked up by the Parkes telescope.

Ng says this provides the first direct evidence that the handle of the "Frying Pan" is actually a pulsar trail.

"It's the longest trail we've ever seen that points all the way back to the centre of the Frying Pan," says Ng.

He says pulsars don't normally leave a trail, or if they do it is only very short.

"This is really weird," says Ng.

He says the only other long pulsar trail to be found was not connected to the supernova shell in the way this pulsar was.

Ng says the next step is to work out why the pulsar has left such a long thin trail behind it.
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