Highest-Energy Gamma Rays Detected from Pulsar Challenge Scientific Understanding

  • 12 Oct 2023

Key Points

  • Unprecedented Observation: The H.E.S.S. observatory in Namibia has detected gamma rays of extreme intensity originating from a pulsar, a deceased star formed from the remnants of a supernova explosion.
  • Astounding Energy Levels: These gamma rays exhibited a remarkable energy level of 20 tera-electronvolts, highlighting their extraordinary power, which far surpasses the energy of visible light.
  • Scientific Conundrum: The discovery presents a dilemma for scientists as it contradicts the current understanding of how pulsars generate pulsed gamma rays.
  • Pulsars: Pulsars are incredibly dense and tiny celestial objects, composed mainly of neutrons.
  • A mere teaspoon of their material is equivalent to over five billion tonnes, roughly 900 times the mass of the Great Pyramid of Giza.
  • Cosmic Lighthouses: Pulsars emit beams of electromagnetic radiation that rotate, resembling cosmic lighthouses.
  • When these beams cross our solar system, we observe flashes of radiation at regular intervals.
  • Radiation Mechanism: It is believed that fast electrons produced and accelerated in the pulsar's magnetosphere, as they move toward the outer regions, are the source of this radiation.
  • The magnetosphere is comprised of plasma and electromagnetic fields that envelop and rotate with the pulsar.
  • Future Insights: This remarkable discovery opens a new window for observing other pulsars in the tens of teraelectronvolt range, promising a deeper understanding of the extreme acceleration processes in highly magnetized celestial objects.