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Last updated on April 25, 2014 at 5:25 EDT

A Black Widow Pulsar Consumes its Mate

February 22, 2014

Black widow spiders and their Australian cousins, known as redbacks, are notorious for an unsettling tendency to kill and devour their male partners. Astronomers have noted similar behavior among two rare breeds of binary system that contain rapidly spinning neutron stars, also known as pulsars.

The essential features of black widow and redback binaries are that they place a normal but very low-mass star in close proximity to a millisecond pulsar, which has disastrous consequences for the star. Black widow systems contain stars that are both physically smaller and of much lower mass than those found in redbacks.

Credit: NASA

[ Read the Article: Spidery Pulsars Consume Their Mates With A Deadly Embrace ]