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The pulsar in the Crab is thought to be a rapidly spinning neutron star with a strong magnetic field. Radiation may escape along the directions of the field. As the pulsar spins, X-rays are emitted in short bursts like flashes from a cosmic lighthouse. When the observations are timed to match these pulsations, the Crab's pulsar seems to turn on and off.
Courtesy Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics
Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory
60 Garden Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
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