A fast-spinning pulsar
feeding on acompanion star has been found 3,000 light-years from Earth in a rare type of cannibalistic system known as a black-widow binary.
Around two dozen
black-widow binaries are currently known in the Milky Way galaxy.
They typically feature a pulsar,
which is the spinning neutron-star remnant of a massive star that exploded in a supernova, stealing matter from a companion star.
As the infalling matter accumulates
onto the surface of the pulsar, a torrent of X-rays and gamma rays are unleashed, which further erodes and destroys the companion.
The newly discovered black-widow
binary is the tightest black-widow binary known, with the pulsar and the companion locked in an orbital dance with a period of just 62 minutes.
As the pulsar spins up,
it unleashes increasing amounts of radiation that heat the companion star's pulsar-facing side.