Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Faster-than-light pulsar radio waves found

Astrophysicists working out of the University of Texas at Brownsville have been studying an interesting pulsar about 10,000 light years away from us (a pulsar is a highly magnetic, spinning corpse of a dead star). Over the course of three days of monitoring, radio waves emitted from the pulsar seem to have been traveling faster than the speed of light.

Pulsar Radio Wave - PSR B1937+21

You might have heard that faster-than-light travel is impossible. This is not entirely true -- there are a couple of catches which allow for F.T.L velocities. One such catch, as originally proposed by Mr. Einstein, is that something can travel faster than light if it does not contain information. This physical law has been observed on Earth in experiments, but with this pulsar (if confirmed), this is the first time this sort of thing has been observed off of our planet. What does or does not constitute information in this context however, is the subject of both rigorous study and debate.

The radio pulse from the pulsar is suspected to have picked up some of the excess speed by passing through a cloud of neutral hydrogen atoms, which causes the radio waves to increase their electromagnetic wavelength (a process called "anomalous dispersion").
(Note: pictured above is some other pulsar, not Pulsar PSR B1937+21 from this research. Pulsar PSR B1937+21 is the second fastest spinning pulsar yet cataloged, and spins about 642 times around every second.)

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Mohan | January 19, 2010 at 9:13 AM  

That is an interesting article. Thanks for sharing.

sriharsha | January 19, 2010 at 11:36 AM  


Thnx for visiting my blog mohan.

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