Stellar Lighthouse

Imagine the pulsar as a stellar lighthouse. At the magnetic poles of the neutron star (though not necessarily aligned with the star's rotational axis) are regions in which charged particles are accelerated by the star's magnetic field. These regions, which rotate with the star, radiate intense energy. As the neutron star rotates, a beam of electromagnetic radiation (especially intense in the radio regime) sweeps a path through space. If the earth lies in that path, we see the pulsar.

Thus, all pulsars are neutron stars, but not all neutron stars will necessarily be pulsars. If the beam of a particular neutron star does not sweep past the earth, we will not detect its radio pulsations. Pulsar periods range anywhere from milliseconds to a few seconds.

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