Pulsar Beams—Big and Bright

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Science  11 Apr 2014:
Vol. 344, Issue 6180, pp. 159-160
DOI: 10.1126/science.1251943

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The standard picture of a pulsar, or rotation-powered neutron star, has narrow beams of radiation lancing out of the magnetic poles and sweeping across the sky as the star spins. For nearly 50 years, astronomers have been observing radio flashes from these objects and, on the whole, this lighthouse model does a good job of explaining pulsar phenomenology. However, we have not fully deciphered the pulsar mechanism—although we understand how pulsars pulse, we still seek to understand how they shine.