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Satellite Is Observing Birth of Millisecond Radar Pulsar Star

MIT scientists believe they are observing the birth of a millisecond radar pulsar more than 12,000 miles away in the constellation Sagittarius. The star, spotted by NASA’s Rossi X-Ray Timing Explorer satellite during a monthlong burst of X-rays that began in April, could be a “missing link” in the evolution of stars, they report today in Nature.

Mature millisecond radar pulsars--which have the same mass as the sun but are only about the size of San Francisco--spin nearly 1,000 times per second, emitting apparent bursts of X-rays as the rotation brings an energy source or “hot spot” on the surface into line with the Earth. The newly discovered pulsar is part of a binary system, and the team believes that matter spiraling into it from its companion is speeding up its rate of spin. It is now spinning about once every 2.5 seconds.

Compiled by Times medical writer Thomas H. Maugh II


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