To survive in this Universe, you must avoid pulsars.
Formed when massive stars die in a core-collapse supernova, pulsars are rapidly spinning neutron stars.
The fastest rotators — millisecond pulsars — “spin up” from siphoning matter off of nearby stars.
Whenever stars form, they aren’t always singlets, but often possess a companion.
Furthermore, in dense stellar environments — like globular clusters — gravitational ejection and capture are common.
Many millisecond pulsars come to have low-mass companion stars, forming LMXBs: low-mass X-ray binaries.
In close-in LMXB systems, these pulsars strip their companion stars of atmospheres through energetic winds.
To study these “spider pulsars,” astronomers looked at nearby globular cluster Omega Centauri with the Chandra X-ray telescope.
The new study has bad news for those stellar companions: they’re being murdered by these X-ray emitting pulsars.
Some companions are red dwarf stars, while others are lower-mass failed stars: brown dwarfs.
The higher the companion star’s mass, the more strongly the system emits X-rays.
And with stronger emitted X-rays from the pulsar, the faster the stellar companion loses mass.
Pulsars don’t just “steal mass” from their companions, but fire particles back out, further damaging their victims.
For low-mass companions, the term “black widow” has never been more fitting.
Mostly Mute Monday tells an astronomical story in images, visuals, and no more than 200 words.