You know when you're having a bad day when you get hit by a billion-ton asteroid. But for a pulsar 37,000 light-years away, it's just a another day at the office. And besides, PSR J0738-4042 has an uber-powerful X-ray blaster to deal with errant space rocks.
Image: An artistic impression of an asteroid getting blasted by the powerful X-rays from a pulsar, turning it into energized particles that interact with the pulsar's magnetic field. NASA/JPL-CALTECH.
Astronomers of Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) made the pulsar-pounding, asteroid-zapping discovery while using the Parkes Telescope to study the dusty, high-radiation environment surrounding the tiny spinning husk of the dead star. Pulsars are spinning compact stellar objects known as neutron stars that generate powerful beams of radiation from their intensely magnetized poles that, if aligned correctly with Earth, can be observed as ultra-precise radio pulses.