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.
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.
- PHYSICAL SCIENCES
- EARTH SCIENCES
- LIFE SCIENCES
- SOCIAL SCIENCES
Subscribe to the newsletter
Stay in touch with the scientific world!
Know Science And Want To Write?
- Global 'Roadmap' Shows Where To Put Roads Without Costing The Earth
- Neil Tyson On The Politics Of Science Denial
- Brain Size Matters When It Comes To Remembering
- How The Higgs Became The Target Of Run 2 At The Tevatron
- Wockhardt Is First Indian Pharmaceutical Company To Get FDA QIDP Status
- How Neuroscience Is Being Used To Spread Quackery In Business And Education
- Low Carb Vs. Low Fat Diets: Which Is Better?
- "You don't think science media is a lot better about calling out anti-science on both political..."
- "From what I have seen over the years on Science 2.0 I regard LagrangiansForBreakfast and Ed brown..."
- "Edison's superior lamp filament was made of carbon, not tungsten. In 1906, the General Electric..."
- "Those days are long gone seriously ?..."
- "I also am not John Lee, nor Stephen M, which I felt you were implying in this article due to our..."
- The key to drilling wells with staying power in the developing world
- Cannabis withdrawal symptoms common among adolescents treated for substance use disorder
- WSU 'deadly force' lab finds racial disparities in shootings
- EGFR carcinogenic role in liver decoded
- CMOS biomimicry: Biomimetic photodetector 'sees' in color