A Caltech Library Service

A 62-minute orbital period black widow binary in a wide hierarchical triple

Burdge, Kevin B. and Marsh, Thomas R. and Fuller, Jim and Bellm, Eric C. and Caiazzo, Ilaria and Chakrabarty, Deepto and Coughlin, Michael W. and De, Kishalay and Dhillon, V. S. and Graham, Matthew J. and Rodríguez-Gil, Pablo and Jaodand, Amruta D. and Kaplan, David L. and Kara, Erin and Kong, Albert K. H. and Kulkarni, S. R. and Li, Kwan-Lok and Littlefair, S. P. and Majid, Walid A. and Mróz, Przemek and Pearlman, Aaron B. and Phinney, E. S. and van Roestel, Jan and Simcoe, Robert A. and Andreoni, Igor and Drake, Andrew J. and Dekany, Richard G. and Duev, Dmitry A. and Kool, Erik C. and Mahabal, Ashish A. and Medford, Michael S. and Riddle, Reed and Prince, Thomas A. (2022) A 62-minute orbital period black widow binary in a wide hierarchical triple. Nature, 605 (7908). pp. 41-45. ISSN 0028-0836. doi:10.1038/s41586-022-04551-1.

[img] PDF (Peer Review File) - Supplemental Material
See Usage Policy.

[img] Image (JPEG) (Extended Data Fig. 1: CHIMERA and ZTF light curve of ZTF J1406+1222) - Supplemental Material
See Usage Policy.

[img] Image (JPEG) (Extended Data Fig. 2: Swift UVOT and corrected HiPERCAM light curve of ZTF J1406+1222) - Supplemental Material
See Usage Policy.

[img] Image (JPEG) (Extended Data Fig. 3: ICARUS model fit to light curve) - Supplemental Material
See Usage Policy.

[img] Image (JPEG) (Extended Data Fig. 4: Model fit to peak of ZTF J1406+1222’s spectral energy distribution) - Supplemental Material
See Usage Policy.

[img] Image (JPEG) (Extended Data Fig. 5: Red LRIS spectrum of ZTF J1406+1222) - Supplemental Material
See Usage Policy.

[img] Image (JPEG) (Extended Data Fig. 6: SDSS colour image of ZTF J1406+1222) - Supplemental Material
See Usage Policy.

[img] Image (JPEG) (Extended Data Fig. 7: Pan-STARRS1 colour image of ZTF J1406+1222) - Supplemental Material
See Usage Policy.

[img] Image (JPEG) (Extended Data Fig. 8: Astrometric characterization of ZTF J1406+1222) - Supplemental Material
See Usage Policy.

[img] Image (JPEG) (Extended Data Fig. 9: X-ray luminosity constraint of ZTF J1406+1222) - Supplemental Material
See Usage Policy.

[img] Image (JPEG) (Extended Data Fig. 10: Radial versus scale height orbital solution of ZTF J1406+1222 around the Galaxy) - Supplemental Material
See Usage Policy.

[img] Image (JPEG) (Extended Data Fig. 11: Cross-section of the orbital solution of ZTF J1406+1222 in the Galaxy) - Supplemental Material
See Usage Policy.

Image (JPEG) (Extended Data Table 1: Spectroscopic properties of the subdwarf K-type (sdK) star) - Supplemental Material
See Usage Policy.


Use this Persistent URL to link to this item:


Over a dozen millisecond pulsars are ablating low-mass companions in close binary systems. In the original ‘black widow’, the eight-hour orbital period eclipsing pulsar PSR J1959+2048 (PSR B1957+20), high-energy emission originating from the pulsar is irradiating and may eventually destroy a low-mass companion. These systems are not only physical laboratories that reveal the interesting results of exposing a close companion star to the relativistic energy output of a pulsar, but are also believed to harbour some of the most massive neutron stars, allowing for robust tests of the neutron star equation of state. Here we report observations of ZTF J1406+1222, a wide hierarchical triple hosting a 62-minute orbital period black widow candidate, the optical flux of which varies by a factor of more than ten. ZTF J1406+1222 pushes the boundaries of evolutionary models, falling below the 80-minute minimum orbital period of hydrogen-rich systems. The wide tertiary companion is a rare low-metallicity cool subdwarf star, and the system has a Galactic halo orbit consistent with passing near the Galactic Centre, making it a probe of formation channels, neutron star kick physics and binary evolution.

Item Type:Article
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription ReadCube access ItemData
Burdge, Kevin B.0000-0002-7226-836X
Marsh, Thomas R.0000-0002-2498-7589
Fuller, Jim0000-0002-4544-0750
Bellm, Eric C.0000-0001-8018-5348
Caiazzo, Ilaria0000-0002-4770-5388
Chakrabarty, Deepto0000-0001-8804-8946
Coughlin, Michael W.0000-0002-8262-2924
De, Kishalay0000-0002-8989-0542
Dhillon, V. S.0000-0003-4236-9642
Graham, Matthew J.0000-0002-3168-0139
Rodríguez-Gil, Pablo0000-0002-4717-5102
Jaodand, Amruta D.0000-0002-3850-6651
Kaplan, David L.0000-0001-6295-2881
Kara, Erin0000-0003-0172-0854
Kong, Albert K. H.0000-0002-5105-344X
Kulkarni, S. R.0000-0001-5390-8563
Li, Kwan-Lok0000-0001-8229-2024
Littlefair, S. P.0000-0001-7221-855X
Majid, Walid A.0000-0002-4694-4221
Mróz, Przemek0000-0001-7016-1692
Pearlman, Aaron B.0000-0002-8912-0732
Phinney, E. S.0000-0002-9656-4032
van Roestel, Jan0000-0002-2626-2872
Simcoe, Robert A.0000-0003-3769-9559
Andreoni, Igor0000-0002-8977-1498
Dekany, Richard G.0000-0002-5884-7867
Duev, Dmitry A.0000-0001-5060-8733
Kool, Erik C.0000-0002-7252-3877
Mahabal, Ashish A.0000-0003-2242-0244
Medford, Michael S.0000-0002-7226-0659
Riddle, Reed0000-0002-0387-370X
Prince, Thomas A.0000-0002-8850-3627
Additional Information:© 2022 Nature Publishing Group. Received 06 October 2021; Accepted 15 February 2022; Published 04 May 2022; Issue Date 05 May 2022. K.B.B. is a Pappalardo Postdoctoral Fellow in Physics at MIT and thanks the Pappalardo fellowship programme for supporting his research. T.R.M. was supported by a Leverhulme Research Fellowship and STFC grant ST/T000406/1. I.C. is a Sherman Fairchild Fellow at Caltech and thanks the Burke Institute at Caltech for supporting her research. M.W.C. acknowledges support from the National Science Foundation with grant number PHY-2010970. A.B.P. is a McGill Space Institute (MSI) Fellow and a Fonds de Recherche du Quebec – Nature et Technologies (FRQNT) postdoctoral fellow. The design and construction of HiPERCAM was funded by the European Research Council under the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP/2007-2013) under ERC-2013-ADG grant agreement no. 340040 (HiPERCAM). V.S.D. and HiPERCAM operations are supported by STFC grant ST/V000853/1. E.C.K. acknowledges support from the G.R.E.A.T. research environment funded by Vetenskapsrådet, the Swedish Research Council, under project number 2016-06012, and support from The Wenner-Gren Foundations. J.F. and E.S.P. acknowledge support from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation through grant GBMF5076 to E.S.P. E.C.B. acknowledges support from the NSF AAG grant 1812779 and grant #2018-0908 from the Heising-Simons Foundation. K.-L.L. is supported by the Ministry of Science and Technology of the Republic of China (Taiwan) through grant 110-2636-M-006-013, and he is a Yushan (Young) Scholar of the Ministry of Education of the Republic of China (Taiwan). This work is based on observations obtained with the Samuel Oschin Telescope 48-inch and the 60-inch Telescope at the Palomar Observatory as part of the Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF) project. ZTF is supported by the National Science Foundation under grant no. AST-1440341 and a collaboration including Caltech, IPAC, the Weizmann Institute for Science, the Oskar Klein Center at Stockholm University, the University of Maryland, the University of Washington, Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron and Humboldt University, Los Alamos National Laboratories, the TANGO Consortium of Taiwan, the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories. Operations are conducted by Caltech Optical Observatories, IPAC and University of Washington. Some of the data presented herein were obtained at the W. M. Keck Observatory, which is operated as a scientific partnership among the California Institute of Technology, the University of California and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The Observatory was made possible by the generous financial support of the W. M. Keck Foundation. We wish to recognize and acknowledge the very significant cultural role and reverence that the summit of Mauna Kea has always had within the Indigenous Hawaiian community. We are most fortunate to have the opportunity to conduct observations from this mountain. Data availability: Reduced HiPERCAM photometric data and LRIS spectroscopic data are available at The X-ray observations are in the public domain, and their observation IDs are supplied in the text. The ZTF data are also in the public domain. The proprietary period for the spectroscopic data will expire at the start of 2022, at which point the raw spectroscopic images will also be accessible via the Keck observatory archive. Code availability: Upon request, the corresponding author will provide the code (primarily in Python) used to analyse the observations, and any data used to generate figures (MATLAB was used to generate most of the figures). Contributions: K.B.B. discovered the object, conducted the LCURVE and ICARUS light curve analysis, spectroscopic data reduction and analysis of Keck LRIS data, the reduction and analysis of the Swift UVOT and XRT data, reduction and analysis of the NuSTAR data, and was the primary author of the manuscript. T.R.M. conducted the HiPERCAM data reduction and assisted with the overall analysis and interpretation of the object. K.B.B. performed the analysis of the Fermi LAT data, with assistance from D.L.K., A.K.H.K. and K.L.L. W.A.M. and A.B.P. conducted the DSN observations of the system and A.B.P. performed the pulsation searches of these data and contributed the text describing the results and the implications. J.F. contributed text regarding the evolutionary history of the system. T.A.P., T.R.M., J.F., I.C. and E.S.P. all contributed to the interpretation of the object’s evolutionary history. All authors contributed comments and edits to the manuscript. A.D.J. submitted the NuSTAR proposal on the object and K.D. conducted the WASP observations of the object. V.S.D. conducted the HiPERCAM observations of the object and is principal investigator (PI) of HiPERCAM. P.R.-G. was PI of the HiPERCAM proposal that observed the object. S.R.K., T.A.P., M.J.G. and E.C.B. are, respectively, the PI, co-investigator, project scientist and survey scientist of ZTF. The authors declare that they have no competing financial interests. Peer review information: Nature thanks Anne Archibald, Roberto Mignani and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work. Peer reviewer reports are available.
Group:Astronomy Department, Infrared Processing and Analysis Center (IPAC), TAPIR, Zwicky Transient Facility, Walter Burke Institute for Theoretical Physics
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)UNSPECIFIED
Leverhulme TrustUNSPECIFIED
Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC)ST/T000406/1
Sherman Fairchild FoundationUNSPECIFIED
Walter Burke Institute for Theoretical Physics, CaltechUNSPECIFIED
McGill Space InstituteUNSPECIFIED
Fonds de recherche du Québec - Nature et technologies (FRQNT)UNSPECIFIED
European Research Council (ERC)340040
Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC)ST/V000853/1
G.R.E.A.T. Research EnvironmentUNSPECIFIED
Swedish Research Council2016-06012
Wenner-Gren FoundationUNSPECIFIED
Gordon and Betty Moore FoundationGBMF5076
Heising-Simons Foundation2018-0908
Ministry of Science and Technology (Taipei)110-2636-M-006-013
Ministry of Education (Taipei)UNSPECIFIED
ZTF partner institutionsUNSPECIFIED
W. M. Keck FoundationUNSPECIFIED
Subject Keywords:Compact astrophysical objects; Time-domain astronomy
Issue or Number:7908
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20220505-812251500
Persistent URL:
Official Citation:Burdge, K.B., Marsh, T.R., Fuller, J. et al. A 62-minute orbital period black widow binary in a wide hierarchical triple. Nature 605, 41–45 (2022).
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:114598
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:05 May 2022 22:52
Last Modified:05 May 2022 22:52

Repository Staff Only: item control page