A Mysterious Pulsar Is Sending Strange Emissions Really Far Into Space

By Michelle Starr

Most stars are just out there in space, doing their star thing, but not the pulsar called RX J0806.4-4123. It’s been caught doing something that’s never been seen before. It’s emitting infrared radiation – and only infrared radiation – at a huge distance.

Long-distance emission from neutron stars is nothing new. But the fact RX J0806.4-4123 is the first star which has such an emission only in infrared light could mean that it could have new features seen in no other pulsar.

“This particular neutron star belongs to a group of seven nearby X-ray pulsars – nicknamed ‘the Magnificent Seven’ – that are hotter than they ought to be considering their ages and available energy reservoir provided by the loss of rotation energy,” said astrophysicist Bettina Posselt of Penn State.

“We observed an extended area of infrared emissions around this neutron star … the total size of which translates into about 200 astronomical units (or 2.5 times the orbit of Pluto around the Sun) at the assumed distance of the pulsar.”

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