The mystery at the heart of an unexplained, bright point of gamma-ray light in the sky has been solved: There’s a deadly spider star flaying a second, wimpier star to bits, sending out rapid-fire bursts of gamma radiation in the process

“Black widows” and “redbacks” in astronomy, as Live Science previously reported, are species of neutron stars — the ultradense remnant cores of giant stars that exploded. Some neutron stars, called pulsars, rotate at regular intervals, flashing like lighthouses. The fastest-spinning among them are millisecond pulsars. When a millisecond pulsar is locked in a rare, tight orbit with a lightweight star, it slowly shreds its partner to bits with each rotation. These binary cannibals are known as black widow or redback stars. Now, with the help of citizen scientists, a team of researchers has revealed a new redback at the heart of a bright system known as PSR J2039–5617.