A close-up of the tidal distortion of a neutron star orbiting a massive star
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. In this simulation, the tidal distortion of the primary star and the resultant tidal stream is shown. 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.