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    PSR B1509-58: Engine In An X-Ray Nebula 150 Light Years Across
    By News Staff | April 3rd 2009 10:25 PM | 10 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    A small, dense object only twelve miles in diameter is responsible for this beautiful X-ray nebula that spans 150 light years. At the center of this image made by NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory is a very young and powerful pulsar, known as PSR B1509-58, or B1509 for short.

    The pulsar is a rapidly spinning neutron star which is spewing energy out into the space around it to create complex and intriguing structures, including one that resembles a large cosmic hand. In this image, the lowest energy X-rays that Chandra detects are red, the medium range is green, and the most energetic ones are colored blue. Astronomers think that B1509 is about 1,700 years old and is located about 17,000 light years away.

    Neutron stars are created when massive stars run out of fuel and collapse. B1509 is spinning completely around almost 7 times every second and is releasing energy into its environment at a prodigious rate -- presumably because it has an intense magnetic field at its surface, estimated to be 15 trillion times stronger than the Earth's magnetic field.

    PSR B1509-58
    At the center of this Chandra image, a pulsar -- only twelve miles in
    diameter -- is responsible for this X-ray nebula that spans 150 light years.
    This pulsar is spinning around almost 7 times a second and has a
    magnetic field at its surface estimated to be 15 trillion times stronger
    than the Earth's magnetic field. This combination of rapid rotation and
    ultra-strong magnetic field drives an energetic wind of electrons and
    ions, ultimately creating the elaborate nebula seen by Chandra.  
    Credit: NASA/CXC/SAO/P. Slane et al.

    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.

    In the innermost regions, a faint circle surrounds the pulsar, and marks the spot where the wind is rapidly decelerated by the slowly expanding nebula. In this way, B1509 shares some striking similarities to the famous Crab Nebula. However B1509's nebula is 15 times wider than the Crab's diameter of 10 light years.


    Sequence of PSR B1509-58 Images.  Image is 19.6 arcmin across. Coordinates (J2000) RA 15h 13m 55.52s | Dec -59° 08' 08.8" Constellation Circinus Observation Date 12/28/2004-10/18/2005 Observation Time: 52 hours Color Code: Red (0.5-1.7 keV); Green (1.7-3.0 keV) ; Blue (3.0-8.0 keV) Instrument:ACIS Distance Estimate: About 17,000 light years.  Credit: NASA/CXC/SAO/P.Slane, et al.

    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 (orange and red features to the upper right). The temperature in this region appears to vary in a circular pattern around this ring of emission, suggesting that the pulsar may be precessing like a spinning top and sweeping an energizing beam around the gas in RCW 89.

    NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., manages the Chandra program for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory controls Chandra's science and flight operations from Cambridge, Mass.


    This image contains infrared, X-ray, and radio data. It shows the environment into which the pulsar's nebula is expanding.  Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/SAO/P. Slane et al; Infrared: 2MASS/UMass/IPAC-Caltech; Radio: Molonglo Obs. Synthesis Tel.

    Comments

    Could that hand like structure be God showing us something. Should we be fearful or not. For me, I will not fear it; but, embrace that God is in existence even in space. That he has everything under control. That he loves us to allow us to see this magnificent sight of his love for us.

    Um.....no

    Are you some kind of idiot. It's got nothing to do with religion, god, or anything like that.
    There is no god, it's just a made up thing to try and make people feel better. Sorry but it's all just a big hoax people.

    rholley

    Should we be fearful or not?

    This object is not a planetary nebula, but like those, is the product of the dying of a star.  They allow us access to science in a way that we cannot achieve on Earth.  In the case of these X-ray objects, sheer practicalities, as well as Health and Safety, would rule out such experiments down here on Earth (qua giù dove l'affetto nostro langue).

    However, they do also give me a sense of horror at the futility of everything in this universe.

    So I said:
       Do not take me away, O my God, in the midst of my days;
       your years go on through all generations.
    In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth,
       and the heavens are the work of your hands.
    They will perish, but you remain;
       they will all wear out like a garment.
       Like clothing you will change them
       and they will be discarded.
    But you remain the same,
       and your years will never end. (Psalm 102:24-27)
    So, Temitope, may I thank you for your thoughts, and wish you a Happy Easter.

    Cristos a înviat! Adevărat a înviat!

    Robert H. Olley / Quondam Physics Department / University of Reading / England
    Someone enlighten me here. The nebula is 17000 lightyears away. It is 1700 years old. How can we even see it, since the light and radiation from it shouldn't reach Earth for another 15300 years? Or did I forget something from my science classes?

    Or is NASA just a bit further along with FTL-sensors than anyone realised? :D

    Alternatively, the nebula is really 18700 years old but we are seeing it at an age of 1700 years?

    I was thinking exactly the same about the stated age and distance of the nebula. I read about it today in a local newspaper and laughed to myself, because I thought that the reporter had made an obvious mistake. But to my big surprise the infomation about the age and distance is the same whereever you search on the Internet - even on very serious scientifiv websites.

    Anyway it still can't be right, and I'm happy to see that at least one person has the same thought as I do.

    rholley
    Scientific writing is full of shorthand, and what is really meant is

    The nebula as we observe it is 1700 years old.

    Since Special Relativity, however, the concept of a simultaneous uniform time throughout the universe in now known to be not strictly valid.  So one can say

    There was silence throughout heaven for half-an-hour

    but, given Minkowskian spacetime, silence throughout the universe for half-an-hour is not mathematically feasible.
    Robert H. Olley / Quondam Physics Department / University of Reading / England
    Wow that really astounds me. Noone has answered this question for you yet? It can't be right... can it?

    "Astronomers think that B1509 is about 1,700 years old and is located about 17,000 light years away"

    If that is the case surely we should not be see it yet.

    Whoops, I think I was having a senior moment and missed all those previous posts