DETLEV VAN RAVENSWAAY / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY DETLEV VAN RAVENSWAAY / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Pulsar. Artwork of a pulsar, as seen from a nearby planet. Pulsars are probably neutron stars which produce two beams of radiation, usually at radio and X-ray wavelengths. Pulsars rotate rapidly, their beams sweeping round so that they appear to flash like a lighthouse. A neutron star is the tiny but extremely dense star that remains after a dying star explodes to produce a supernova. The variations in the frequency of some pulsars' flashes suggest that they have planets orbiting them. Such planets would be barren because the intense radiation from the pulsar would strip away their atmospheres.
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