back to article Mysterious 'glitch' in neutron stars may be down to an itch under the body's surface

Aussie astroboffins think they have worked out one of the more unusual oddities in the universe – glitchy pulsars. Neutron stars rotate rapidly, emitting pulses of electromagnetic energy at regular intervals. Sometimes the flashes fluctuate, however, speeding up then slowing down suddenly for several seconds, leaving …

  1. Wellyboot Silver badge

    Nice Hypothesis

    Good explanation using fluid dynamics.

    I prefer the idea that giant alien spaceships use the Neutron star for slingshot manoeuvres and we can see the resulting tiny effect on stellar rotation.

    (It's a slow morning)

    1. Gonzo wizard Bronze badge

      Re: Nice Hypothesis

      I for one welcome the impending arrival of our Pak overlords. Sweet potato, anyone?

      1. BugabooSue

        Re: Nice Hypothesis

        "Pak" reference made me smile.

        Or I would if I could - my beak is way too hard for that, Breeder.

    2. Annihilator Silver badge

      Re: Nice Hypothesis

      I think (debatable) that giant alien spaceships doing a slingshot would have a permanent effect on the rotational rate though, not a temporary one.

      1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

        Re: Nice Hypothesis

        Look out, they're coming in pairs, slingshotting around opposite sides of the neutron star in question (with a slight delay between them to avoid collisions on the far side)

        1. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

          Re: Nice Hypothesis

          I'm no astro-boffin but I understand that the gravity assist manoeuvre exploits the relative motion of the body providing the assist. To gain velocity relative to the sun, spacecraft approach from the trailing side of a planet's orbit. If you were to send two objects around from opposite sides, with mirrored trajectories, one would gain velocity while the other would lose it. Would balance out, though.

    3. eldakka Silver badge

      Re: Nice Hypothesis

      Either that, or its a correction for time drift in this local regions pulsar-based timeserver to keep it in sync with GMT (Galactic Mean Time).

  2. WonkoTheSane

    Car analogy

    "Glitches are thought to be caused when excess angular momentum from neutrons in the inner crust is transferred to the particles in the outer crust."

    So... the clutch is slipping?

    1. Steve K Silver badge

      Re: Car analogy

      Good analogy too, but isn't it an electrical powerplant...?

      Fit one of those in the Millennium Falcon and it would do the Kessel run by last Tuesday...

    2. annodomini2

      Re: Car analogy

      Other way around, clutch is normally slipping, bites, but has a dual mass flywheel and accelerates on release, then continues to slip

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I've had that in a windup mechanism

    It had a missing tooth in one of its gears which made it skip when wound up.

    Just look for a giant key sticking out somewhere.

  4. Mystic Megabyte


    “We hypothesize that it may be a statistical fluctuation consistent with the overall noise fluctuations and speculate such fluctuations drive the differential lag between the superfluid and the crust above its critical value, thus triggering the glitch.”

    I was going to say that! /s

  5. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

    It's a software bug that's been fixed in Neutron Star 1.01. But unfortunately you can only get the update if you've got a valid support contract or have gone with a creator who continues to issue firmware updates after the first billion years.

    Some of these creators are complete cowboys. Fly-by-nights. On moment they're delivering a T-Rex and then it's all, "oh we can't get the parts anymore, you'll have to have the new mammals to replace it."

    1. STOP_FORTH Silver badge

      It was a bit of a lemon, anyway. The arms were too small. God's Edsel.

      1. druck Silver badge

        Who needs arms when you have those teeth?!

        1. Alister Silver badge

          With such short arms, how did they scratch their nose?

          1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

            With such short arms, how did they pay for a round of drinks? No wonder they were always fighting.

        2. ThatOne Silver badge

          You need them to brush those teeth...

        3. STOP_FORTH Silver badge

          Dental hygiene

          How did they brush their teeth with those tiny arms? (Disclaimer, I believe their arms were actually bigger than mine and considerably more muscly. Opposable thumbs, not so much.)

          Edit: Sorry guys, you must have posted while I was typing.

      2. Chris G Silver badge

        At least in those days it was easier to stay out of 'arms way.

  6. TDog


    They discovered that the star's rotational frequency increased by about 16 microhertz, a tiny amount, over 30 seconds or so, according to a paper published in Nature Astronomy on Monday.

    That amounts to "about one part in a million," Gregory Ashton, first author of the paper and an assistant astrophysics lecturer at Monash University,

    It's about one and a half parts in a hundred thousand. Too many tinnies sport!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Surely

      Per the paper, the nominal frequency is 11.186433 Hz, that frequency is varying by 16 microhertz. The variation lasts for about 30 seconds. The parts per million doesn't have anything to do with the 30 seconds.

  7. Tom 7 Silver badge

    Do you get sunspots on neutron stars?

    This sounds similar to the magnetic field in the sun winding itself up until is snaps during the sunspot cycle.

  8. tallenglish

    Its the equivilent of a earthquake

    Neutron stars are known to have friction, and just like earth has plate techtonics (caused by friction), why should neutron stars be any different.

    They slow down as the friction builds up, then it is released in a quake that speeds it up temporarilly. Once that is released it goes back to normal, and starts storing the energy for the next quake.

    Surely someone has spot that, especially as neutron stars are highly compessed?

  9. BuckeyeB

    "We fixed the glitch."

  10. BuckeyeB

    Isn't it just as likely, that there is a bug in OUR software and we're detecting a ghost glitch?

    1. DCFusor Silver badge

      Or a bug in the assumption that it's the star changing and not something that alters the propagation speed -

      It's usually the assumptions that get you. Unstated ones doubly so.

  11. FozzyBear Silver badge
    IT Angle

    It's not a glitch.... It's just an undocumented feature

  12. Big_Boomer Silver badge

    Le Trou Noir

    It's a small black hole or possibly another Neutron star on a 3 year orbit around the (Pulsar) Neutron star. As it approaches perihelion, it progressively slows the spin rate of the Neutron star, eventually causing the glitch and as it pulls away it speeds up the spin again. Either that or "God" is fiddling with The Matrix again! <sigh>

  13. gnarlymarley

    refresh rate

    Maybe the rate they are taking pictures is slightly off and we have the spinning item phenomenon. Sounded awfully similar to the spinning propeller changing speed where the camera refresh rate can cause some strange stuff.

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