06 April 2009
The hand of a Pulsar
Science Daily carries a report on an image made by NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory at the centre of which is a very young and powerful pulsar, known as PSR B1509-58 (B1509 for short).
The pulsar, which is just 12 miles in diameter, is responsible for a beautiful X-ray nebula that spans 150 light years. Astronomers think that B1509 is about 1,700 years old and is located about 17,000 light years away.
According the the report the combination of rapid rotation and ultra-strong magnetic field makes B1509 one of the most powerful electromagnetic generators in the Galaxy. This generator drives an energetic wind of electrons and ions away from the neutron star. As the electrons move through the magnetized nebula, they radiate away their energy and create the elaborate nebula seen by Chandra.
Finger-like structures extend to the north, apparently energizing knots of material in a neighboring gas cloud known as RCW 89. The transfer of energy from the wind to these knots makes them glow brightly in X-rays.
My knowledge of pulsars and X-ray nebulae is minimal but wow what wow what an amazing image!
Source: Chandra X-ray Center (2009, April 5). Young Pulsar Shows Its Hand. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 6, 2009, from http://www.sciencedaily.com¬ /releases/2009/04/090403181503.htm