December 11, 2017

28.03.11: Einstein@Home Bags Pulsar #2.

Pulsars in a tight orbit…(Artists conception credit: NASA/Goddard).

Crowd-sourced citizen science bagged another astrophysical biggie this month. Einstein@Home, everyone’s favorite desktop screensaver program, announced the discovery of a new potential pulsar pair earlier this month. Like SETI@Home, this program utilizes idle computing time to analyze avalanches of data looking for signals. In the case of Einstein@Home, the data received comes from LIGO,VIRGO, and more recently, Arecibo. This collaboration searches for gravity waves generated by merging pairs neutron stars or black holes. The hunt for said gravity waves is still afoot, but in 2009, Einstein@Home added radio data gathered from the Pulsar ALFA antennae at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico. Readers of this space will remember Einstein@Home’s first find back in November 2009. The current discovery, dubbed PSR J1952+2630, was discovered in data initially collected in August 2005. This unique object in the constellation Vulpecula lies along the galactic plane about 9,400 parsecs distant. The minimum mass constraints of 1.16 and 0.95 solar masses suggest a pulsar-pulsar or pulsar-white dwarf pair locked in a 9.4 hour orbit. The Einstein@Home search is designed to find millisecond pulsars in orbits exceeding 11 minutes. Such radio finds may pave the way for the big payoff; candidate sources for the ultimate detection of gravity waves. Congrats to the team on their find, and do make an effort to devote idle computing time to SETI & Einstein@Home… Could the first true detection of ET &/or Gravity Waves (or ET signaling us with gravity waves) be sitting on YOUR desktop?      

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