Quirks & Quarks

Pulsar Pair Bends Space-Time

A binary pair of ultra-compact stars demonstrates Einstein's theory that gravity distorts space
Two ultra-dense stars, one a pulsar, orbiting each other and distorting space time. (Joeri van Leeuwen/ASTRON, cc-by-sa-4.0)
Two super-dense stars orbiting each other have been observed bending space-time, providing a dramatic demonstration of Einstein's theory of General Relativity.

According to Dr. Ingrid Stairs, a professor of Physics and Astronomy at the University of British Columbia, at least one of the stars is a pulsar - a fast-spinning, radiation-emitting neutron star. The second may also be a neutron star, or possibly a white dwarf. The two are closer to each other than Mercury is to our Sun, and orbit each other in just days.

Their powerful gravitational fields are interacting in a way that is bending space-time, which we see as an increase in the wobble of the pulsar. The result is that the radiation jet from the pulsar, which we see in our telescopes as a repeating flash, is being gradually directed away from us, so that we can now barely see it.

Related Links

- Paper to be published in the Astrophysical Journal
- UBC release
- Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy release
EarthSky story
- BBC story