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The universe contains many strange and wonderful astronomical phenomena, and pulsars are extraordinary in many ways. This essay will examine pulsars, including their formation, general characteristics, modern theories about pulsars, and the discovery of the unique characteristics of a millisecond pulsar. This discussion will demonstrate that pulsars are neutron stars that send regular bursts of electromagnetic radiation towards Earth and provide a great deal of information about the death of stars. Although new characteristics of pulsars are still being discovered, new theories are difficult to test due to the nature of tracking, analyzing and observing these astronomical phenomena.


Pulsars are formed through a series of astronomical events that begin with a star destroys itself in an explosion called a supernova. This explosion releases more energy in ten seconds than our Sun will produce in its entire lifetime, and expands outward as a gaseous remnant for the next 100,000 or more years at a 100 miles per second. The expansion of the supernova scatters heavy elements that are believed to be the beginnings of new stars and planets, while its core collapses into a super-dense ball called a neutron star, which measures ten miles across and 100 trillion times denser than lead.

This neutron star may spin in a number of different ways. If the star spins with an orientation that causes regular pulses of electromagnetic radiation to be sent toward Earth, it is a pulsar. There is a neutron star at the center of every supernova remnant, but the majority have either an off-center neutron star or no star. The Crab Nebula has a pulsar at its center that spins at a rate of thirty-three times every second. 

It has been difficult for astronomers to produce theoretical simulations of the perfectly symmetrical explosion required to maintain a neutron star within a supernova. The blast propels the neutron star away from the center of the supernova remnant . Astronomical findings have shown that this theory of traveling neutron stars may be valid. By tracking a pulsar named B1951+32, astronomers have found that it is moving away from the center of its remnant at a velocity of approximately 550,000 miles per hour.

In July 2002 the characteristics of unique millisecond pulsars were discovered through observing several pairs of stars in the Milky Way . Millisecond pulsars can spin up to several hundred times per second and broadcast electromagnetic waves through the sky. These observations supported a theory that these aging stars don't always spin incredibly fast, but increase their spin rate as they combine with another orbiting star.

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