astronomyblog: What are Pulsars? Pulsars are…


What are Pulsars?

Pulsars are spherical, compact objects that are about the size of a large city but contain more mass than the sun.

Discovered in 1967, pulsars are fascinating members of the cosmic community.

From Earth, pulsars often look like flickering stars. On and off, on and off, they seem to blink with a regular rhythm. But the light from pulsars does not actually flicker or pulse, and these objects are not actually stars.

Pulsars radiate two steady, narrow beams of light in opposite directions. Although the light from the beam is steady, pulsars appear to flicker because they also spin. It’s the same reason a lighthouse appears to blink when seen by a sailor on the ocean: As the pulsar rotates, the beam of light may sweep across the Earth, then swing out of view, then swing back around again. To an astronomer on the ground, the light goes in and out of view, giving the impression that the pulsar is blinking on and off. The reason a pulsar’s light beam spins around like a lighthouse beam is that the pulsar’s beam of light is typically not aligned with the pulsar’s axis of rotation.