Teardrop in the Sky
A spinning star found feeding on its stellar companion, whittling it down to an object smaller than some planets. Pulsars are the cores of burnt out "neutron" stars that spin hundreds of times per second.
The object’s minimum mass is only about 7 times the mass of Jupiter. But instead of orbiting a normal star, this low-mass body orbits a rapidly spinning pulsar every 54.7 minutes, at an average distance of only about 230,000 miles (slightly less than the Earth-Moon distance).
"This object is merely the skeleton of a star," says study team member Craig Markwardt of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland. "The pulsar has eaten away the star's outer envelope, and all that remains is its helium-rich core."
The system was discovered in early June when NASA's Swift and Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer (RXTE) satellites picked up an outburst of X-rays and gamma rays in the direction of the Milky Way galactic center in the constellation Sagittarius, and named SWIFT J1756.9-2508.
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