UWM Physics professor David Kaplan worked with colleagues at the University of Sydney to discover the brightest pulsar outside the Milky Way, possibly the brightest pulsar known. Using the ASKAP radio telescope as part of the Variables and Slow Transients (VAST) survey, they identified a variable, polarized radio source that looked a lot like a pulsar. However, searches could not find any pulses. They turned to the MeerKAT telescope which confirmed that it was indeed a pulsar.

When they looked in more detail, they realized that this pulsar was in our nearby neighbor galaxy, the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC). Astronomers have discovered over 30 pulsars in the Magellanic Clouds starting in the 1970's, but this one is the brightest known and it somehow escaped all previous searches. It may even be the brightest pulsar in our Galaxy. Knowing that pulsar this bright are still out there to be discovered bodes well for new surveys and for discovering new pulsars in more distant galaxies.

Kaplan and colleagues wrote about their experience for the Conversation.

The work was published in the Astrophysical Journal.

LMC pulsar Artist's impression of the PSR J0523-7125 in the Large Magellanic Cloud. Carl Knox, ARC Centre of Excellence for Gravitational Wave Discovery (OzGrav).