The long held theory that the mysterious pulsars are small, burned-out stars spinning in the heavens appears to have been confirmed by a satellite put into earth orbit almost a year ago.
The High Energy Astronomical Observatory has measured the magnetic field generated by a nameless pulsar in the constellation Cassiopeia 20,000 light years away and found it to be 1.5 trillion times as strong as the magnetic field produced by the spinning Earth. So strong is the pulsar's magnetic field that the electrical currents producing it would be enough to electrocute everybody on earth.
"There is enough pure energy in one spoonful of this pulsar," said Dr. Peter Goldreich of the California Institute of Technology, "to supply the Earth's electricity for the next thousand years."
Pulsars emit radio and X-ray signals in such precise bursts that they have been likened to celestial lighthouses. Theorists have long felt that pulsars exhausted their nuclear fuel and then collapsed to spheres no wider than 10 miles across, which spin as rapidly as 30 times a second.
So dense is a pulsar that a spoonful of its material would weigh as much as all the buildings in New York City. A star that dense that spins very fast should be enough of a dynamo to generate an incredibly large magnetic field.
The pulsar in question pulses, meaning it sends a stream of X-rays intospace, every 3.6 seconds. The source of the X-rays is the gas falling from a nearby conventional star onto the pulsar. The gas gets so hot it radiates X-rays.
The X-rays are pulsed into space by the magnetic field of the pulsar which has been theorized to be as strong as 1.5 trillion gauss. The Earth's magnetic field is strong enough to produce events like the aurora borealis but is only one-half to one gauss. A gauss is a measurement of magnetism.
The only experimental way of confirming a pulsar's awesome statistics is by indirect measurement of its magnetic field, which is what the HEAO satellite has done, under the direction of a team of scientists at the Massachusets Institute of Technology.