Another piece of the jigsaw in understanding how neutron stars work has been put in place following the discovery by scientists of the origin of the high energy emission from rotation-powered pulsars.
Pulsar systems containing neutron stars accelerate particles to immense energies, typically one hundred times more than the most powerful accelerators on Earth. Scientists are still uncertain exactly how these systems work and where the particles are accelerated.
Now a team of researchers from the UK and Italy, led by Professor Tony Dean of the University of Southampton, has detected polarized gamma-ray emission from the vicinity of the Crab Nebula - one of the most dramatic sights in deep space. By using spectroscopic imaging and measuring the polarization - or the alignment - of the waves of high energy radiation in the gamma-ray band, they have shown that these energetic photons originate close to the pulsar.