Scientists have found a space "black widow"

An international team of scientists has detected the first gamma-ray eclipses of the Black Widow star system using

NASA's Fermi Gamma Ray Space Telescope. This is a special type of binary star system that has one ordinary, "living" star and one pulsar, the rapidly rotating superdense remnant of a dead star.

A team of scientists looked at the Fermi data forlast decade, when it discovered seven such systems in which gamma-ray eclipses occurred. They occur when a low-mass companion star passes in front of the pulsar as viewed from Earth, the aerospace agency said.

An artist's idea of ​​a star eclipsing a pulsar.
Photo: NASA/Sonoma State University, Aurora Simonnet

New data allowed scientists to calculate the slopesystems relative to an observer from Earth and obtain other important information that will change our understanding of pulsars. "One of the most important goals for studying black widow stars is to measure the masses of pulsars," explained Colin Clark, an astrophysicist at the G.I. Max Planck in Hannover, Germany, and leader of the study.

NASA highlights the fact that its Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope has changed the way scientists think about pulsars since it was launched into orbit on June 11, 2008.

NASA's Fermi Gamma Ray Space Telescope. Photo: NASA

“Before Fermi, we only knew about a few pulsars,emitting gamma rays. After more than a decade of observations, the mission has identified more than 300 dead stars and has collected a long, nearly continuous set of data that allows the community to do groundbreaking science,” explains Elizabeth Hayes, Fermi Project Scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.

The scientists published their findings in a paper published in the journal Nature Astronomy.

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Cover: The Red Spider Nebula, ESA/Hubble