These views were created to accompany press releases for Dr. Bettina Posselt, et al., on the detection of infrared emission surrounding the neutron star (pulsar) RX J0806.4-4123; e.g., https://www.nasa.gov/feature/goddard/2018/hubble-uncovers-never-before-seen-features-around-a-neutron-star
Naturally I employed a healthy amount of artistic license on the depictions — for scale, brightness, color variations, simulation speed (in the movie versions, below), and so on. Dr. Posselt and collaborators described several potential scenarios to explain the source of infrared radiation:
1) heating/excitation of nearby interstellar gas as the pulsar moves through space — hence, the kind of “bow shock / bullet shape” to the cloudy material;
2) an extended disk around the neutron star, with a kind of amplified low-angle glint in our direction;
3) a small inner disk with an extended halo of smaller, reflective “Kuiper Belt”- or “Oort Cloud”-analogue bodies.
I modeled these systems in the “Unity” 3-D game engine. Short, looping movies of the simulations running can be found here: