NASA: Transformer Binary Pulsar System


A tiny, ultra-dense, rapidly spinning neutron star gradually consumes its much larger, yet less massive companion star in this “transformer” binary pulsar system known as AY Sextantis. The pulsar's rapid rotation and intense magnetic field are responsible for both the radio beam and its powerful pulsar wind. When the radio beam is detectable, the pulsar wind holds back the companion's gas stream, preventing it from approaching too closely. But now and then the stream surges, pushing its way closer to the pulsar and establishing an accretion disk.


Animation: Cruz deWilde

Producer: Scott Wiessinger

Scientist: Anne Archibald

Writer: Frank Reddy