Neutron Stars in Binary Systems

Ready To Go!

You're now ready to get into the details of a binary star system with one neutron star and another star not yet a stellar remnant.

The following animation shows the evolution of a binary star system starting soon after the supernova explosion that left behind the neutron star. The second star in the system survived the explosion, and continues its own evolution. This evolution means that the star loses more and more mass in a heavy solar wind. This mass is pulled toward the neutron star, and forms an accretion disk around the neutron star. This accretion disk is so hot that it shines strongly in X-rays. In this example, the neutron star ends up accreting all of the mass of its companion, and the result is a more massive, fast-spinning pulsar. If the total mass exceeded about two solar masses, the neutron star would implode to a black hole. The whole process in real time would take about one billion years, depending on how close the two stars began and their mass.

After you watch the animation, return to this page and click "Next Page" to continue through this module.

Watch the animation.

This is an amazing story, but what evidence do astronomers have that systems like this really exist? Let's start by looking at theoretical light curves from binary systems of a stellar system like this.

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