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Another pulsar in the neighborhood.

The pulsar Geminga now has a competitor for the title of nearest known pulsar to Earth. Astronomers have discovered another such object nearby, estimated to reside just 400 lightyears from Earth. Known as PSR J0437-4715, this rapidly spinning, radio-wave emitting neutron star rotates once every 5.75 milliseconds.

Simon Johnston of the Australia Telescope National Facility in Epping and his colleagues discovered the nearby pulsar, which orbits a companion star, while surveying the southern sky with the Parkes 64-meter radiotelescope. The researchers roughly inferred the distance to the pulsar by measuring the dispersion of the star's radio-wave emissions as they traveled through the ionized interstellar medium, the team reports in the Feb. 18 NATURE. The measurement indicates that PSR J0437-4715 vies with only one other pulsar, the once-mysterious Geminga - now estimated to lie within 300 light-years of Earth - as the closest pulsar to the solar system (SN: 1/2/93, p.4).

Both the signal strength and the proximity of the newly identified pulsar should allow direct measurements of the star's distance. Researchers also hope to probe the fine-scale structure and polarization of radio pulses at a level that has never been possible with any other rapidly spinning pulsar.
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Title Annotation:PSR JO437-4715 found 400 light-years from Earth
Publication:Science News
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Mar 6, 1993
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