Astronomers have found a pulsating, dead star beaming with the energy of about 10 million suns. This is the brightest pulsar - a dense stellar remnant left over from a supernova explosion - ever recorded. The discovery was made with NASA's Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR.
"You might think of this pulsar as the 'Mighty Mouse' of stellar remnants," said Fiona Harrison, the NuSTAR principal investigator at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. "It has all the power of a black hole, but with much less mass."
The discovery appears in a new report in the Thursday, Oct. 9, issue of the journal Nature.
The surprising find is helping astronomers better understand mysterious sources of blinding X-rays, called ultraluminous X-ray sources (ULXs). Until now, all ULXs were thought to be black holes. The new data from NuSTAR show at least one ULX, about 12 million light-years away in the galaxy Messier 82 (M82), is actually a pulsar.