A Pulsar Just Got Swallowed By A Warp In Space-Time

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A star has
vanished from the telescopes of the radio astronomers due to the space-time
warp it produces as it orbits. The vanishing star is part of a binary star
system known as J1906. It’s actually a pulsar, which means it’s a rapidly
spinning neutron star, the outcome of a massive star collapsing in on itself. 

Scientists have been observing the young pulsar for five years to conclude what
type of companion star was revolving around it. That is, until lately, when the
pulsar disappeared. As a pulsar revolves, it releases a beam of electromagnetic
radiation, kind of like light coming from a lighthouse. 

Researchers use radio
telescopes that detect the pulses originating from the pulsar. But as
researchers observed J1906, the pulsar started to slip off the radar. It
appears that as the pulsar revolves around its companion star, the mass of the
companion star makes it drop deep into a dip in space-time fabric, so that its
radio waves cannot touch Earth.
The theory
is called geodetic precession, which, according to researchers at NASA, uses
Einstein’s theory of relativity to comprehend how massive things like the Earth
bend the space around them, manipulating the local space-time fabric.

The video above shows the sinkhole in space
formed by the pulsar as it circles the second star. As the warp upsurges, the
pulsar’s axis changes (illustrated by the arrows), so its radio pulses no
longer reach the Earth’s radio telescopes. But this pulsar won’t be out of
vision for ever. Chief researcher Joeri van Leeuwen from the Netherlands
Institute for Radio Astronomy projects that the star will come back into sight
in less than 160 years. The group’s findings were published
 in the
Astrophysical Journal in conjunction with the
American Astronomical Society’s 225th conference.

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