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10 years of LOFAR highlights: Super-slow pulsar challenges theory

In 2017 LOFAR detects the slowest spinning radio pulsar to date. The neutron star spins around once only every 23.5 seconds almost three times more slowly than the slowest spinning radio pulsar detected up to that point (8.5 seconds).

Published by the editorial team, 3 June 2020

The discovery is a joint effort of the University of Manchester, ASTRON and University of Amsterdam; University of Manchester PhD-student Chia Min Tan makes the discovery as part of the LOFAR Tied-Array All-Sky Survey, which searches for pulsars in the Northern sky. Each survey snapshot of the sky lasts for one hour, which is much longer compared to previous surveys. Solely due to this high sensitivity this slow rotating neutron star, which is approximately 14 million years old, can be detected.

The fact that such a slow spinning pulsar still emits radio waves strong enough to detect, challenges the current theories of how pulsars shine.

Artist’s conception of the 23.5-second pulsar. Radio pulses originating from a source in the constellation Cassiopeia travel towards the core of the LOFAR telescope array. (Credit: Danielle Futselaar/ASTRON)

On 12 June 2020, LOFAR celebrates its tenth anniversary. The radio telescope is the world’s largest low frequency instrument and is one of the pathfinders of the Square Kilometre Array (SKA), which is currently being developed. Throughout its ten years of operation, LOFAR has made some amazing discoveries. It has been a key part of groundbreaking research, both in astronomy and engineering. Here we feature some – but definitely not all – of these past highlights, with surely more to come in the future.



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