Pulsars are known to shoot electromagnetic radiation into space. That means that being located anywhere near it isn’t a synonym for having a winning ticket at all. But as it’s impossible for astronomers to discover everything in the Universe, they still have a lot to learn about pulsars as well.
A new discovery coming from a team of scientists led by Kevin Burdge from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology proves it once again. According to Space.com, they were the lucky ones to unveil a so-called ‘black widow binary,’ meaning a rare situation of a millisecond pulsar that chows down on a star located nearby.
Setting the cosmic stage for ZTF J1406+1222
ZTF J1406+1222 is the name of the binary in question, and it’s a weird one. It’s composed of two objects orbiting extremely close to each other. The star and the pulsar are engaged in an orbit that lasts for just a bit more than an hour: 62 minutes.
To make things even weirder, ZTF J1406+1222 is located only 3,000 light-years away from Earth. Translating from English to English, it means very close, judging by astronomical scaling.
Kevin Burdge, the leader of the team responsible for the discovery, said the following as Space.com quotes:
Everything seems to point to it being a black-widow binary,
But there are a few weird things about it, so it’s possible it’s something new entirely.
There’s even a chance that the binary system is much older than the Sun. While the star that Earth revolves around is 4.6 billion years old, we obviously conclude that ZTF J1406+1222 should be even older. Burdge also stated, as quoted by the same source mentioned above:
This system has probably been floating around the Milky Way for longer than the sun has been around.
Therefore, if you ever want and find a way to travel beyond the Solar System, you should keep in mind that there are plenty of dangers out there!