Pulsating Science
International Year of Astronomy 2009

Short description:

This is an interactive animation of a binary star system with a pulsar – a rapidly rotating neutron start with a strong magnetic field, emitting two focussed beams of radio waves (yellow cones) along its magnetic axis.

The diagram below the animation shows the radio pulses an observer (red line) can measure during one rotation of the pulsar – the observer measures a signal whenever he is grazed by a bundle of radiation.

You can change the pulsar's properties like mass, angular frequency, inclination of the pulsar's rotational and magnetic axes, or the size of the orbit. You can vary the system's position relative to the observer by clicking with left mouse button into the animation and moving the mouse vertically (inclination) and horizontally (rotation). You can zoom in and out by clicking with the right mouse button into the animation and moving the mouse vertically.

Tips:

Choose different companions! What changes for the observer? Can the pulsar be invisible for the observer with some paramter values?

Note:

The animation is not drawn to scale. For better visibility the pulsar's angular frequency has been decreased compared to reality.