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Method detects stars

A Canadian astrophysicist says he has found a powerful method for detecting collapsed stars, which could lead to the discovery of planets outside the solar system.

University of British Columbia physics professor Philip Gregory said his new mathematical method helps scientists identify the faint signals coming from so-called neutron stars more massive than the sun. These neutron stars or pulsars may have planets orbiting around them.

"This will enable us to detail a greater number of neutron stars and may lead to the discovery of further planets outside our solar system," Gregory said.

The findings of Gregory and fellow astrophysicist Tom Laredo of Cornell University were published in the Saturday issue of the Chicago-based Astrophysical Journal

Pulsars are the collapsed cores of stars that have exploded as they reach the end of their lifetime of billions of years. Averaging about 6 miles in diameter, they are incredibly dense and emit X-rays, gamma rays and radio waves in a regular clock-like fashion.

"Neutron stars make the world's best clocks and we have these clocks sitting out in our galaxy in all kinds of interesting cosmic environments," Gregory said.

He said the timing of the pulses from the neutron stars can be used to find planets to which they have a gravitational attraction. He said he did not expect these planets to be habitable.

"The X-ray beams (from the neutron stars) would be devastating to life as we know it," he said.

Gregory said he hopes his mathematical method, based on a theory that originated in the 18th century, will help show scientists how common planetary systems are.

NASA "sees' new galaxy: A superbright galaxy found 2-billion light-years from the Milky Way has been "seen" by scientists using a recently launched U.S. spacecraft, NASA said.

The faraway galaxy, observed only as a source of powerful electromagnetic radiation, is extremely elliptical and gives off as much energy as a trillion suns, the scientists said in a statement.

Some astrophysicists think such a galaxy may contain at its heart a huge black hole with a mass of 100-million suns.

The steady brilliance might indicate that material is steadily being sucked into the giant black hole that could be at the galaxy's center, the scientists said.

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