NASA: Black Widow Binary Pulsar System


In this black widow binary pulsar system, a normal but very low-mass star tightly orbits a millisecond pulsar -- an exotic, ultra-dense star roughly 20 km in diameter with a mass slightly greater than our sun, which spins several hundred times per second around its own axis. The pulsar's featherweight companion, which is only a dozen or so times the mass of Jupiter and just 60 percent of its size, speeds along its almost perfectly circular orbital path at well over two million kilometers per hour, completing an orbit every 93 minutes. The the side of the companion star facing the pulsar is heated to more than 21,000 degrees (F) as the intense radiation from the pulsar gradually blasts material off its surface.

Animation & Visual Effects: Cruz deWilde

Producers: Scott Weissinger, Frank Reddy

Science Writer: Frank Reddy

Scientists: Roger Romani