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Pulsar ages may need refiguring

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5:26pm, January 29, 2001

New images taken with the Chandra X-Ray Observatory have confirmed recent evidence that a known pulsar, a rapidly spinning neutron star, was born in a supernova explosion that Chinese astronomers witnessed in A.D. 386. The finding, which indicates the pulsar is much younger than earlier calculations suggested, calls into question how astronomers traditionally compute the ages of these rapidly rotating, ultracompact stars.

The finding also represents only the second time that a pulsar has been definitively linked to a supernova observed centuries ago, notes Victoria M. Kaspi of McGill University in Montreal. Scientists had previously established a clear link between the Crab nebula pulsar and a supernova sighting in China in A.D. 1054.

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