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Let There Be Spin

Revving up neutron stars

1:48pm, July 10, 2002

While most of us slow down as we become senior citizens, some elderly stars rotate faster and faster as they age. Ultimately, they become the most swiftly twirling stars known in the universe. Called millisecond pulsars, these stars can spin up to several hundred times per second and broadcast strong beams of radio waves that sweep across the sky like lighthouse beacons. An outpouring of energetic radiation from several pairs of stars in our Milky Way is providing new clues about how these whirling dervishes got their rapid spin. The observations support the theory that these aging stars didn't start life in the fast lane. Rather, they rev up their spin as they devour a closely orbiting companion.

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