Neutron stars are the densest stars in the universe (if you don’t consider the black holes as stars) and they rotate very fast and regularly. A small percentage of them, however, show a mysterious behavior that scientists have called a “glitch:” some portions of the interior of the star move outwards and this seems to allow the same stars to rotate faster for short periods.

In a new study, published in Nature Astronomy, a group of researchers analyzed just one of these stars, the Pulsar of the Sails, a neutron star about a thousand light-years away from us.

This is one of the most famous neutron stars not only because it is part of that 5% of the pulsar with the “glitch” but also because this “anomaly” occurs every three years, which allows a more detailed study, despite the cause of this feature was never really explained by astronomers.

Analyzing data from observations made by telescopes, the researchers first confirmed the glitch because the star started at some point to spin faster before slowing down again. They also succeeded in indirectly analyzing the inside of the star by discovering a particular superfluid neutron soup in the inner layer of the crust, as reported by Paul Lasky, one of the authors of the study.

This soup moves outwards hitting the outer crust and making it spin faster. This first phase is followed by a second phase which sees another superfluid soup that reaches the first, during which the normal rotation of the star is re-established.

This is not the solution of the enigma but in any case, this study provides important information to inspire future studies on this mysterious glitch that characterizes some neutron stars.

Alice Stevens

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Alice Stevens