DIS­TANT GAL­AX­IES HAVE A HEART­BEAT

Sky at Night Magazine - - BULLETIN -

PUL­SARS IN GALAXY M87 give the galaxy a ‘heart­beat’, po­ten­tially pro­vid­ing re­searchers a new way to mea­sure the galaxy’s age.

To­wards the end of their lives, cer­tain stars be­gin to pul­sate, grow­ing and de­creas­ing in size and bright­ness over the course of a few hun­dred days. We’ve seen th­ese stars within our own Galaxy, but lit­tle thought has been given to the ef­fects of th­ese stars in other gal­ax­ies.

“We re­alised that th­ese stars are so bright and their pul­sa­tions so strong that they are dif­fi­cult to hide,” says Char­lie Con­roy from Har­vard Univer­sity. “We de­cided to see if the pul­sa­tions of th­ese stars could be de­tected even if we could not sep­a­rate their light from the sea of un­chang­ing stars that are their neigh­bours.”

Now re­searchers will be­gin to take the pulse of other gal­ax­ies, hop­ing to find a new way to age gal­ax­ies, some­thing that is cur­rently dif­fi­cult to do. “Our mod­els sug­gest that the pul­sa­tions will be stronger in younger gal­ax­ies, and that’s some­thing we’d love to test,” says Jieun Choi from Har­vard Univer­sity. http://hub­ble­site.org

M87, some 50 mil­lion lightyears from Earth in Virgo, is a su­per­giant el­lip­ti­cal galaxy

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