Neutron Stars and Pulsars
If the star remnant left behind by a supernova explosion
is massive enough, gravity ultimately crushes its protons and electrons
together to form neutrons. The resulting neutron star can spin hundreds
of times per second and has an intense rotating magnetic field that whips
electrons and protons to nearly the speed of light.
These particles emit a narrow beam of gamma rays and other forms of radiation
into space. As the star rotates, this beam may sweep past the Earth like
the light from a cosmic lighthouse, making the star appear to pulse. This
type of neutron star is known as a gamma-ray pulsar.
Compare the pulsar-containing Crab nebula in gamma rays and visible light.
A service of the Laboratory for High Energy Astrophysics at
Goddard Space Flight Center
Technical Rep: Jay Norris
Web Curator: J.D. Myers
Viewing The Violent Universe was created by
Joslyn Schoemer, Stephanie Leitner and Tom Chi.
Questions and comments may be sent to Joslyn Schoemer at