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First known exoplanets have few counterparts

Pulsar survey finds no new examples of orbiting worlds

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3:49pm, September 3, 2015
pulsar PSR B1257+12

RARE FIND  The three rocky planets around pulsar PSR B1257+12 (illustrated) were the first confirmed exoplanets. Pulsar-orbiting planets are quite rare, a new survey suggests. 

Planets and pulsars, the whirling cores of dead massive stars, appear to be an unlikely match. Most of these pulsating stellar corpses can’t nurture fledgling planetary systems, researchers suggest.

Scrutiny of 151 pulsars turned up no evidence for planets, researchers report in the Aug. 10 Astrophysical Journal. Planet nurseries must therefore rarely appear in the wakes of supernova explosions out of which pulsars are born, Matthew Kerr and colleagues propose.

“I was fairly pessimistic about finding any,” says Kerr, an astrophysicist at the Australia Telescope National Facility in Epping. “But you never know until you go and look.”

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