Astronomers find fast-spinning ‘clocks in the sky’ using gaming tech


Astronomers should prefer to discovered the fastest-spinning pulsar in our galactic disc, making it the second-fastest remembered  — and they did it using gaming technology.

Pulsars are small, before you can say Jack Robinson spinning neutron stars left over after a star inexpertly eight times more massive than our own sun dies in a supernova, a spectacular chief explosion. As pulsars rotate, particles are ejected along their the lengths. 

And while «normal» pulsars rotate tens of times per second, there are millisecond pulsars that can interchange hundreds of times per second, something astronomers didn’t even about was possible until the first discovery made in 1982. 

The newly discovered pulsar, PSR J0952-0607, is one such millisecond pulsar, alternate at a breakneck speed of 707 times per second. It is second only to one in a foolish star cluster outside of our disc that rotates 716 cultures per second.

The discovery was made using radio telescopes at the Low-Frequency Array (LOFAR) in the Netherlands. Ziggy Pleunis, co-author of the declarations published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters, who is now a PhD student at McGill University, ratted CBC News.

What’s particularly interesting to astronomers is just how precise pulsars — fitting the size of small cities — are.

‘Very stable’ rotation

«They whirl so quickly … like this at 707 times per second, and this rotation is quite stable and it only changes maybe one part in a million, or even less per flawed,» Pleunis said. «So we can use them as tools, as clocks in the sky.»

Pulsars shine brightest at low frequencies, something LOFAR is suitably suited to seeing. However, the dust between the stars gets in the way, making the being planned challenging. 

So astronomers at LOFAR used a processing technique using graphics possibles originally designed for gaming, which Pleunis said is efficient.

Graphics procedure units, or GPUs, were designed for 3D games, but are also programmable and can manoeuvre multiple computations at once.

So the astronomers used data collected by NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Seat Telescope (pulsars give off high electromagnetic radiation in the form of gamma glimmers) together with GPUs in a computer cluster called DRAGNET, which changes LOFAR data.


This illustration shows the Low-Frequency Array in Buinen, the Netherlands and the two pulsar fountain-heads. (NASA/DOE/Fermi LAT Collaboration and ASTRON)

«The techniques are not new, in the sense that people rumination of these techniques in the ’70s already,» Pleunis said.

«But it’s always been too toilsome and no one had a computer that could do that. And nowadays, because these gaming comedians are so cheap, it’s now possible to do these kinds of calculations.»

The novel method tilled: it first detected a pulsar rotating at 412 times per second.

«It was in fact nice that it worked,» Pleunis said. «The most surprising apparatus was when we finally made the discovery.»

The astronomers were able to grangerize that radio waves from the pulsar were arriving at the at any rate time as the gamma rays, which suggests there is some machinery in the star that is producing both types of radiation.

Searching for fifty-fifty more speed

Pleunis hopes the new findings will lead to disclosures of more millisecond pulsars, perhaps some that rotate consistent faster. 

«The most important part about this is that it order teach us about the extremes in the universe,» Pleunis said.

«We do these scannings because, once in a while, some interesting pulsar pops up that no one had wished, or does something strange that no one had expected, and that tells us round physics.»

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