This artist's impression shows a spinning neutron star (pulsar) approximately 10 kilometres in diameter. When a neutron star orbits another star, its strong gravitational field can pull gas from the other star. This coats the surface of the neutron star. When the coating reaches a height of between 5-10 metres, the gas ignites in a thermonuclear explosion. This massive release of energy generally lasts from between several seconds to several minutes and a burst of X-rays is released.