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X-Ray Pulsar

Pulsar Images
Adjust rotational speed:

You may speed up or slow down the rotation using the buttons under the image. The applet's "slower" button will add 50ms to the framedelay (to a max of 5s), while "faster" will subtract 50ms (min is 0ms).

The gas in an accretion disk around a neutron star drifts slowly inward in a tightening spiral. Eventually it reaches a point where the strong magnetic field of the neutron star disrupts the disk. The matter is then guided by the magnetic field toward the magnetic poles of the neutron star. As the material falls toward the surface of the neutron star it is compressed and heated to a temperature of about a hundred million degrees. As this hot column of material rotates, it produces a lighthouse-like beam of X-rays that is observed as a regular pulsing source, as shown below. Note that the pulses will occur only if the magnetic pole is in a different location from the rotational pole. About twenty X-ray pulsars have been discovered.