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Compton Gamma-Ray Observatory Science Support Center

Gamma-Ray Pulsar Light Curves

Gamma-Ray Pulsar Light Curves

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A pulsar is a rotating magnetized neutron star created during a supernova explosion. A neutron star has a mass similar to that of our sun, but has a radius of only 10 km. Charged particles trapped in the intense magnetic field of the neutron star produce a beam of radiation. As the neutron star rotates, this beam creates pulses as it sweeps across the field of view, blinking on and off like a cosmic lighthouse. The panels in this image illustrate the pulses produced across the electromagnetic spectrum by a variety of pulsars. Each small figure shows the variation of the light during one rotation of the pulsar (the so-called "light-curve"). The rotation periods are give at the bottom in milliseconds.

Tremendous differences are seen in the light curves of the different pulsars. The Crab has pulses that line up at all wavelengths. Other pulsars do not share this property. The Geminga pulsar is very diffcult to detect at radio wavelengths.

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This page was last modified on Monday, 01-Aug-2005 13:41:42 EDT.

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