What’s your computer doing when you’re not using it? It could be discovering hidden, record-breaking pulsars, like in the case of PSR J1653−0158, recently found via the Einstein@Home project.
Einstein@Home is a distributed computing project that uses idle computer hours from volunteers to speed up computationally expensive searches for signatures of pulsing neutron stars — pulsars — in large datasets from observatories like the LIGO gravitational-wave detectors, large radio telescopes, and the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope. The donated hours can shorten hunts from what would normally take centuries on a single computer to just a couple weeks.
In a new study led by Lars Nieder (Albert Einstein Institute, Germany), Using novel data analysis methods running on about 10,000 graphics cards in the distributed citizen science project, Einstein@Home, scientists announced discovery: a gamma-ray-bright but radio-invisible pulsar in an orbit with an extremely low-mass star. Such a system is called a “black widow pulsar” — because the pulsar is destroying its companion! — and this one sets a number of records for these systems: it has the fastest orbital period (75 minutes), and the pulsar is unusually massive and has one of the fastest spins and weakest surface magnetic fields of known pulsars.