Stellar Wind Disruption by an Orbiting Neutron Star: Neutron Star Close-up
on July 10, 1990
A tiny neutron star orbits incessantly around a massive star with a diameter a million times larger than its own. The high luminosity of the massive star drives a strong wind from its surface. The neutron star crashes through this wind at over 300 kilometers per second. The gravity and X-ray luminosity of the neutron star act to disrupt the wind, producing an extended wake of dense gas trailing behind the neutron star. The large scale structure seen in the accretion wake is powered by the release of gravitational potential energy near the surface of the neutron star. The numerical simulations depicted here were computed using the Cray X-MP 48 at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.