An equipment the size of a washing machine recorded a record within the universe known to mankind. The NICER (English acronym for "Explorer of the inner composition of neutron stars), which works coupled with the International Space Station, found two stars that revolve around each other every 38 minutes. J17062 is the main one. Extremely dense and fast-rotating, lives in a constant cosmic dance with what astronomers believe to be a poor white dwarf in hydrogen, separated by 300,000 kilometers. It's less than the distance between the sun and the moon. "It is not possible for a star rich in hydrogen, like our sun, to be the mate of the pulsar," said Tod Strohmayer, astrophysicist of Goddard and principal author of the article. "You can't fit a star like that in such a small orbit." Artistic design of the J17062 system (Photo: NASA) When a star dies, leaving to produce chemical reactions and exploding in a supernova, depending on its mass, it collapses and forms a black hole or a neutron star, which is small and Superdense — about the size of a city, but containing more mass than the sun. A pulsar is a neutron star that spins quickly. That's the case with J17062. By having an intense gravitational field, the neutron star is sucking material from its mate, in case the white dwarf. This matter is collected on a kind of disc and, as it turns, spirals downwards and touches the surface. This travels along the magnetic field to the poles, where it creates hot spots. The heat is so much that the irradiated light enters the X-ray portion of the electromagnetic spectrum.
As they rotate, the hot spots come in and out of sight of the X-ray instruments, such as the nicer, which record the fluctuations. Some pulsars rotate more than 42000 times per minute, comparable to the blades of a kitchen blender. The J17062 spins 9800 times a minute. These X-ray pulses are so constant, that, based on the data collected by the nicer, NASA developed the sextant, a sort of interstellar GPS. Over time, the material of the donor star builds up on the surface of the neutron star. Once the pressure of this layer builds up to the point at which its atoms fuse, an uncontrolled thermonuclear reaction occurs, releasing the energy equivalent to 100 bombs of 15 megatons exploding over each square centimeter, explained Strohmayer. X-rays of such explosions can also be captured by the nicer, although it has not yet been seen from J17062. The star donor white dwarf is a "lightweight", only about 1.5% of the mass of our sun. The pulsar is much heavier, around 1.4 solar mass.