Black widow binary pulsar, illustration

Black widow binary pulsar, illustration

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Credit: MARK GARLICK/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Caption: Illustration of the so-called Black Widow Pulsar. This is a pulsar (right), a rapidly rotating neutron star, discovered in 1988, which is in orbit around a brown dwarf (left). The name black widow is applied because the companion to the pulsar is being destroyed by it. Brown dwarves are objects which form as stars do, but which do not attain the core temperatures necessary to fuse hydrogen into helium, as in true stars. Astronomers have detected a bow-shock around the brown dwarf, created as radiation from the pulsar wraps itself around the brown dwarf.

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