Relativistic Spin Precession in the Double Pulsar

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Science  04 Jul 2008:
Vol. 321, Issue 5885, pp. 104-107
DOI: 10.1126/science.1159295

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The double pulsar PSR J0737–3039A/B consists of two neutron stars in a highly relativistic orbit that displays a roughly 30-second eclipse when pulsar A passes behind pulsar B. Describing this eclipse of pulsar A as due to absorption occurring in the magnetosphere of pulsar B, we successfully used a simple geometric model to characterize the observed changing eclipse morphology and to measure the relativistic precession of pulsar B's spin axis around the total orbital angular momentum. This provides a test of general relativity and alternative theories of gravity in the strong-field regime. Our measured relativistic spin precession rate of Embedded Image per year (68% confidence level) is consistent with that predicted by general relativity within an uncertainty of 13%.

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