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Moonhead
2008-May-24, 08:50 AM
I lack the knowledge to fathom the significance of this, but it's nice to see Dutch people contribute to astronomy... (to be honest, I didn't even know there was Netherlands Institute for Space Research until yesterday)





Cosmic supermagnet spreads mysterious Morse code
20 May 2008

Astronomers from SRON have discovered mysterious pulses that are being emitted by an extremely magnetic star. The magnetic star, a magnetar, emits the pulses as very high energy X-rays. The astronomers made their observations using the ESA space telescopes INTEGRAL and XMM-Newton and the NASA satellite RXTE.


source and further reading: SRON.nl (http://www.sron.nl/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1833&Itemid=588)

Mr Q
2008-May-24, 05:45 PM
I can't see where Morse Code could resemble any systematic or random bursts of energy. Pulses are just that - pulses. For such a scientific group, I find it incredible that they would call these pulses "morse code" (implying letters are being sent?). Mr Q

Sam5
2008-May-24, 07:19 PM
Here’s the Morse Code:

http://homepage.ntlworld.com/dmitrismirnov/morse-tab1.JPG

If the “magnetic star” is really emitting pulses in the form of the “Morse Code”, then the scientists should publish the letters of the code and let the rest of us try to translate the “message” into our own languages.

If the “message” is in the form of a book titled “To Serve Man”, then I suggest we not reply to the message at all.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/To_Serve_Man_(The_Twilight_Zone)

tusenfem
2008-May-24, 09:07 PM
I lack the knowledge to fathom the significance of this, but it's nice to see Dutch people contribute to astronomy... (to be honest, I didn't even know there was Netherlands Institute for Space Research until yesterday)

Actually, it used to be said that next to tulips and cheese, astronomers were the major export product of the Netherlands.

Moonhead
2008-May-24, 10:03 PM
I too think that the 'morse code' reference is a bit silly.


Actually, it used to be said that next to tulips and cheese, astronomers were the major export product of the Netherlands.

Yes I've come across a few reading Wikipedia articles. I was kinda surprised! This is not something that is commonly mentioned in schools, at least I never heard it back then.

David Mc
2008-May-24, 11:41 PM
They don't elaborate on what the differences are
but my first guess is that there are at least two orbiting
bodies distorting the pulse.

It's interesting enough to be curious about.

I think it's a bit interesting that they mention having a "film" demonstrating the event
but they neither posted it nor provided the name of the magnetar.

Does anybody else smell some competition in the air?

tusenfem
2008-May-25, 10:59 AM
Well, first of all we have to take into account (as usual) that we are dealing with a press release for the general public. So "morse code" sounds nice, but it does not have any real meaning here, when compared to the morse code used for communication. Don't think that ET is calling home.

Going back to my pulsar time (wow that is a long time ago) I remember that there can be various processes creating pulsar emission. A magnetar is still a pulsar, only the magnetic field is stronger. One process is just radiation coming from the magnetic poles (possibly by linearly accelerated electrons in the magnetic field aligned electric field, see e.g. Melrose (http://esoads.eso.org/abs/1995JApA...16..137M) and Kuijpers & Volwerk (http://esoads.eso.org/abs/1996ASPC..105..181K) for emissions in radio frequencies), but at the same time ions are accelerated to the poles, and create hot spots there emitting high energy radiation. Then there can be radiation emitted further out (also possible with field aligned electric fields) creating more energetic radiation. So, there are different sources in the magnetosphere that can create radiation.

As I read this message, I get the feeling that they looked at the signature of the three different pulses as a function of rotational phase of the magnetar, and turned that into a movie. I am not sure if it would be worth having the "movie" online. Looking at a pulsar, under an angle with respect to the magnetic pole, makes you see, naturally,differnent locations in the magnetosphere, and thus one can find different locations where emission is created (different phase of the rotation). This is very interesting and I would love to see the published paper. Unfortunately, the original paper is not mentioned in the press release, only the title of the dissertation, well, maybe later.

I do not think that I agree with David Mc that two bodies are distorting the pulse, I'd rather think they managed to find three different locations of emission spots.

It could well be that the paper is submitted to Nature or Science, and therefore, nothing but the most general message can be put out into a press release, because N&S really restrict what one is allowed to tell the public before publication.