The first exoplanets were found roughly 30 years ago surrounding a rapidly rotating star known as a pulsar. Presently, astronomers have discovered that these planets may be scarce. The recent work was illustrated on Tuesday at the National Astronomy Meeting by Iuliana Nițu, a Ph.D. student at the University of Manchester.

The processes that lead to the formation of planets and survive around pulsars are presently unknown. A study of 800 pulsars followed by the Jodrell Bank Observatory throughout the last 50 years has conveyed that this first observed exoplanet system may be incredibly uncommon. Probably less than 0.5% of all known pulsars could host Earth-mass planets.

“Pulsars produce signals which sweep the Earth every time they rotate, similarly to a cosmic lighthouse,” explains Nițu. “These signals can then be picked up by radio telescopes and turned into a lot of amazing science.”

A group of astronomers at the University of Manchester conducted the most extensive search regarding the planets orbiting pulsars. Specifically, the team searched for signals that reflected the presence of planetary companions, which have masses up to 100 times that of the Earth, and orbital periods between 20 days and 17 years. Of the ten possible detections, the most reasonable is the system PSR J2007+3120 with the likelihood of hosting at least two planets, which have masses a few times more extensive than that of the Earth and orbital periods of 1.9 and ~3.6 years.

The outcomes of the work indicate no preference for any particular planet masses or orbital periods in pulsar systems. Yet, the results do provide information about the shape of these planets’ orbits. Contrasting to the near-circular orbits that were discovered in our Solar System, these planets orbit their stars on highly elliptical routes. This implies that the creation process for pulsar-planet systems is significantly different than traditional star-planet systems.

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Alice is the Chief Editor with relevant experience of three years, Alice has founded Galaxy Reporters. She has a keen interest in the field of science. She is the pillar behind the in-depth coverages of Science news. She has written several papers and high-level documentation.

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