Do you like you espresso in the morning? How about a double espresso? Some of us find it a little too strong but there are a few of us capable of taking a double espresso. So, is a double pulsar something similar? Well, first of all let’s investigate what a pulsar is. No, it isn’t that strobing ball you had back in the 70s that played a swirl of lights around matching with disco tunes in the background.
Let’s first begin with the basics. Every star reaches its end where it burns through all the gas it has and then depending on its size can do many things. A massive star will collapse usually onto itself and when it does it results in a mega explosion that all know as supernova. However, if the star is large enough then it can practically fall into itself during the process and form a black hole. This is the end of its story. Then there are times when the star is just a tad bit smaller than the kinds that become black holes. These stars collapse onto themselves but instead of becoming a singular point like a black hole, they end up being only a mile or two wide with all their protons and electrons merging together to form neutrons. Basically, this star is packed densely with loads of neutrons.
Now sometimes these neutron stars spin on their own axis owing to their massive mass and orientation. When they do, they begin emitting various frequencies such as X-rays, visible light, radio waves and even gamma radiation. At times, when the orientation of these pulsar is perfect, the beams can radiate towards Earth in a lighthouse sort of fashion. The pulses are so accurate that they are measurable exactly like an atomic clock. A typical pulsar can spin anywhere from 60 to 100 plus times a second.
Now that was a single pulsar. As you might have already guessed, a double pulsar is basically two pulsars that are orbiting each other at really high speeds. There is in fact, only one properly known double pulsar recorded till date and it was discovered back in 2003.
Why Are Double Pulsars So Cool?
The thing about double pulsars is that they can be used to validate and understand various theoretical principles. Plus, they are excellent clocks too. It is because of double pulsars that scientists have confirmed that stars tend to wobble in space-time curve because of their orbits, much like tops. This was a prediction of Einstein.
With more double pulsars sure to be discovered and further studies, several more astrophysical phenomena should come to the forefront and proven too.