Double Pulsar Jackpot

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Science  20 Feb 2004:
Vol. 303, Issue 5661, pp. 1143-1144
DOI: 10.1126/science.1095394

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Pulsars are rapidly spinning neutron stars that emit powerful radio beams sweeping the galaxy like lighthouse beacons. About 90 of these highly accurate astronomical clocks have been discovered locked into orbit with a second star, the so-called binary pulsars. In six cases the second star is itself a neutron star (in almost all other cases, it is a less compact burned-out star called a white dwarf). In his Perspective, van den Heuvel discusses the discovery ( Lyne et al.) of a double pulsar binary system--two pulsars orbiting each other. This unusual pair of pulsars should make possible new tests of Einstein's theory of general relativity and of pulsar emission theories.