Wednesday, March 12, 2014

931 - Encore World Of Wonder

Yesterday's JSVB post of the tenth World Of Wonder seemed to end on a baleful, dreary note: a big blob of sun that swallows the Earth, and everything that belongs to humanity gets destroyed.

So, I have an encore.  When a main-sequence star at the end of its life collapses after a supernova explosion, it may end up as a neutron star.  This star is very dense, small, and bright.  If the compaction process occurs asymmetrically, the star may vent its radiation in a stream. This type of neutron star is called a pulsar.  The star's rotation swings the radiation stream like the beam of a lighthouse. 

Since pulsars are the remnants of stars that have exploded, it seems very unlikely that any neutron star would hold onto their planets.  However, studies of the radiation stream from nearby PSR B1257+12 showed anomalies.  The stream was being blocked by at least one solid object.  This heralded the discovery of the first planets discovered outside of our own Solar System. 

Planets held by pulsars are very rare, however, so perhaps this was a lucky find.  I cribbed off of the Wikipedia entry on PSR B1257+12 to draw my own version of a pulsar with a planet.  Certainly no life as we know it could exist on such a world, which would be absolutely baked by radiation.  But it could be covered with electromagnetic discharges like massive continental aurorae, its beautiful, shimmering cloak the fatal benefit of being so close to the spectacular glory of a pulsar.