The University of Southampton was the receptor of more good news this week, as it was revealed that senior researchers at the university have discovered a radical new way to weigh a star. After rising in a number of national and world league tables, such news only validates Southampton’s status as a leading institution for learning and research.
Senior figures in the science and mathematics faculties have devised a new method for measuring the mass of pulsars – highly magnetised rotating neutron stars formed from the remains of massive stars after they explode into supernovas.
Up until now, scientists have determined the mass of stars, planets and moons by studying their motion in relations to others nearby. However, the breakthrough will make weighing stars a considerably easier process.
Leading researcher Dr Wynn Ho, of Mathematical Sciences at the University of Southampton, was delighted with the result.
It’s an exciting breakthrough which has the potential to revolutionise the way we make this kind of calculation.
Collaborator Dr Cristobal Espinoza of the Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile goes on to explain:
All previous precise measurements of pulsar masses have been made for stars that orbit another object, using the same techniques that were used to measure the mass of the Earth or Moon, or discover the first extrasolar planets. Our technique is very different and can be used for pulsars in isolation.
Pulsars emit a rotating beam of electromagnetic radiation, which can be detected by telescopes when the beam sweeps past the Earth.
For more information, the Southampton-led team has written a paper detailing their work.