China's FAST telescope detects over 200 pulsars

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Panoramic photo taken on Jan. 11, 2020 shows China's Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical radio Telescope (FAST) under maintenance in southwest China's Guizhou Province. [Photo/Xinhua]

Using China's Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical radio Telescope (FAST), scientists have discovered 201 pulsars, including faint pulsars and millisecond pulsars.

The research was led by the National Astronomical Observatories (NAOC) under the Chinese Academy of Sciences. The findings were published in the journal Research in Astronomy and Astrophysics on Thursday.

Pulsars, or fast-spinning neutron stars, originate from the imploded cores of massive dying stars through supernova explosions.

They have the strongest magnetic fields, the highest density, and the fastest rotation of any celestial body in the universe and are thus an ideal laboratory for studying the laws of physics in extreme environments, said Han Jinlin with the NAOC, leader of the research.

Since the first discovery in 1968, about 3,000 pulsars have been discovered.

The research team started a snapshot survey project named the Galactic Plane Pulsar Snapshot survey (GPPS) in early 2020. All visible sky near the Milky Way can be observed for five minutes by the FAST.

By March this year, about 5 percent of the planned sky area has been searched, and 201 pulsars have been discovered.

It is an impressive result at the early stage of the project, said Richard N. Manchester at CSIRO Astronomy and Space Science, Australia.

About 40 pulsars found in the GPPS survey have a period of fewer than 30 milliseconds, which are newly discovered millisecond pulsars.

"FAST has the promise for the study of compact objects in the universe and helps us learn more about fundamental physics and astrophysics," said Jim Cordes with Cornell University, a reviewer of the study.

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