NASA has determined that the pulsar from a binary star system, once visible to observers, has effectively disappeared as the result of a geodetic precession from a nearby space-time warp. Admittedly, that’s a mouthful of scientific jargon.

The international team, including University of British Columbia astronomer Ingrid Stairs, measured the masses of both stars in binary pulsar system J1906. The pulsar spins and emits a lighthouse-like beam of radio waves every 144 milliseconds. It orbits its companion star in a little under four hours.

A pulsar is a “pulsating star” that is likely the remnant of a once massive star that has undergone a supernova which is an event when a star collapses into itself. The pulsar in question is part of the J1906 binary star system. A binary star system in consists of exactly two stars rotating about their common center of mass.

What observers had determined is the J1906 binary star system had a short four-hour rotation. They were using a radio telescope to pick up the highly magnetic signals the pulsar emits and using the information to determine what type of companion star completes the binary star system. It was at this time the pulsar disappeared. Scientists believe the pulsar drew too close to a nearby space-time warp that has now attracted its magnetic impulses preventing them from reaching earth in what is called a “geodetic precession”.

“By precisely tracking the motion of the pulsar, we were able to measure the gravitational interaction between the two highly compact stars with extreme precision,” says Stairs, professor of physics and astronomy at UBC.

Space-Time Warp Has Temporarily Made a Pulsar Disappear: Scientists, 1/11/15

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