We’re a little lucky that we have such weird and wonderful neighbours, celestially speaking. The Milky Way - a large spiral galaxy - is an excellent model for us to observe many varieties of stars, and at different evolutionary phases, but to test our theories, ideas and models, we want to observe what stars are doing in other galaxies as well. Thankfully, right on our doorstep, there are a number of smaller galaxies that we also can look at - in great detail, and across the entire electromagnetic spectrum.
If you’re lucky enough to live under dark skies in the southern hemisphere, you’d likely be familiar with the two, relatively bright clouds that keep us company, circling near the south celestial pole for most of the year. The bigger and closer of the two, the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC), resides about 160,000 light-years away whilst its neighbour, the Small Magellanic Cloud is just a little further out, at 200,000 light-years.
We’ve been able to study our two neighbours in great detail, and from this, learning so much astronomical knowledge thanks to their close proximity (astronomically speaking) - such as how we can measure distances in space-time (in particular, using a type of star known as a Cepheid Variable), or how a supernova unfolds (thanks to the large supernova event that occurred in February of 1987).
Now, Australian astronomers are learning more from our neighbourhood friends, announcing the discovery of one of the most luminous pulsars ever detected, located in the Large Magellanic Cloud. And to find it, they’ve employed a rather interesting technique, that might progress into finding more, unusual pulsars in the future.
The new pulsar is known as PSR J0523-7125, and what makes this discovery fascinating is that it happens to be so very bright, yet located beyond the realms of our own Galaxy.