An international team of scientists has uncovered the mysterious nature of the object PSR J2039-5617 using the Einstein@Home distributed computing platform. It turned out that in the center of the unknown cosmic source of X-ray and gamma rays is a pulsar, which rotates around an evaporating star.
The researchers used the computing power of the project Einstein@Home, uniting the computers of thousands of volunteer users to analyze data from the Fermi Space Telescope. This revealed faint pulsations of gamma ray radiation from a neutron star. In the system, the pulsar heats one side of the companion star, which appears brighter and bluer. The pulsar’s gravitational pull also stretches the star, allowing astronomers to track changes in its apparent size as it rotates. The orbital period of the binary system was 5.5 hours.
The pulsar J2039-5617 rotates around its axis at 377 times per second. Its radiation vaporizes the companion, causing the formation of clouds of charged particles that absorb radio waves. This is why the pulsating radio emission characteristic of the pulsar had not been detected before, making it difficult to determine the nature of the source.
Astronomers have known about the existence of PSR J2039-5617 since 2014, and all data indicated that it included a neutron star, but until now this has not been proven.