The existence of habitable planets in the pulsar system is theoretically possible. Such planets should have a dense atmosphere that would transform the harmful x-rays and high-speed particles emitted by the pulsar into heat, says a new scientific paper.
Pulsars are neutron stars with a diameter of only 10 to 30 kilometers. They have powerful magnetic fields, they accrete matter and are regularly exploded by the ejections of the most powerful fluxes of X-rays and other high-energy particles. Nevertheless, Alessandro Patruno and Mihkel Kama believe that the existence of life in the vicinity of these neutron stars is still possible.
In this study, astronomers first attempted to calculate the boundaries of the so-called “habitable zones” around neutron stars. These calculations show that the inhabited zone around a neutron star can extend over a distance of the order of the Sun-Earth distance. An important initial condition here is that the planet is a “super-earth” with a mass of one to 10 Earth masses. The smaller planet loses the atmosphere for several thousand years. In addition, the atmosphere of the planet should have a million times the thickness, compared with the atmosphere of our planet. Therefore, the conditions on a pulsar planet may resemble the conditions of the depths of the earth’s ocean.
Patruno and Kama studied the pulsar PSR B1257 + 12, which is about 2300 light-years away from the Earth in the constellation Virgo. They used the Chandra space observatory (“Chandra”) to observe the X-ray radiation of this object. Three planets are circling this pulsar. Two of them are super-earths with masses from 4 to 5 Earth masses. According to the calculations of Patruno and Kama, the temperature on the surface of these planets is suitable for the existence of liquid water. However, scientists do not know yet whether these planets have an extremely dense atmosphere.