Closest Approach

12 July 2015

Cue the dramatic music. A pulsar will be making a close approach to a star in 2018.

The pulsar was discovered in 2012, but over the past few years it’s become apparent that it is in a 25-year orbit with a large companion star. This not only makes it the pulsar with the largest known binary orbit, it gives us a specific time range for when a close approach with its companion will occur. As a result we have a heads up on when a burst of gamma rays will occur.

This is important because transient bursts can be difficult to observe when you don’t know they’re going to occur. Since this one is known well in advance, we have plenty of time to prepare. So while the teaser is over dramatic and tongue-in-cheek, it is an exciting event to look forward to.