Bow shock around Black Widow Pulsar as seen by Chandra XRay Observatory. Image credit: NASA/CXC/ASTRON/B.Stappers et al.; Optical: AAO/J.Bland-Hawthorn & H.Jones

Bow shock around Black Widow Pulsar as seen by Chandra XRay Observatory. Image credit: NASA/CXC/ASTRON/B.Stappers et al.; Optical: AAO/J.Bland-Hawthorn & H.Jones

Good morning, Earthlings! As we near Halloween, I thought I'd share something very spooky- Black Widow Pulsars!

No, there's no spiders in space (...or is there?!)...

Pulsars are rapidly spinning neutron stars that emit large amounts of electromagnetic radiation and magnetic fields! We call them pulsars due to their pulsating effect that we detect using radio telescopes!

There is a special type of pulsars called the "millisecond pulsar"- and as the name suggests, these pulsars spin faster than a millisecond per turn. Very fast!

And then we have the Black Widow pulsars- millisecond pulsars that had a giant star companion..."had" is the keyword here...

Yes, the pulsar spins so fast and close to its companion that the radiation shreds the outer layers of its companion and draws it closer until the companion is helpless and left to get shredded piece by piece by something smaller than the size of Arkansas!

We can detect these pulsars by their "glitching" or addition of energy as the companion is adding energy to the spinning. Using xray telescopes, like Chandra, we can detect bow shocks of energy from the companion enveloping over the Black Widow Pulsar!

Depiction of a companion star getting torn apart into the Black Widow pulsar's spinning web of destruction! Image credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

Depiction of a companion star getting torn apart into the Black Widow pulsar's spinning web of destruction! Image credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

Cool? Creepy? Both.

Thanks for reading and next week, we'll reveal some cool stuff for Halloween!