Once massive stars that exploded as supernovae, pulsars are neutron stars with a mass greater than our sun, yet only as big as a medium-sized city.
They are highly magnetized and rotate rapidly, but despite their extreme nature at least two pulsars have associated planetary systems.
Potentially, planets could survive the blast of a supernova. However, planets could also be produced from supernova debris in a second wave of planet formation following the explosion.
A team of scientists have come up with some predictions about the planets that may orbit pulsars.
“Pulsars and their planetary systems work a bit like giant electric generators,” said French researcher Fabrice Mottez at the Paris Observatory in a press release.
“If the conditions are right, the magnetic field and stellar wind of the pulsar can interact with planets and create a powerful electromagnetic wake around the planets.”
This wake could have a strong effect on asteroids, comets, and other small bodies near the planets, which could accrete matter for the formation of second-generation planets.
“Depending on the direction of their orbits, asteroids and comets could be thrown out into distant orbits or dragged down onto the pulsar’s surface,” Mottez said.
“Even for objects as big as a kilometer in diameter, this could happen in less than 10,000 years, which is very rapid on astronomical timescales.”
Mottez discussed his team’s research at the European Planetary Science Congress in Madrid on Sept. 28.
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