NASA unveils ‘space beacon’

(ORDO NEWS) — The pulsar in the Vela Nebula is about 1,000 light-years from Earth. When rotated, it glows like a beacon. The new image shows what this unique glow looks like.

NASA unveils space beacon 2
This image shows the wind nebula of the Vela pulsar. Light blue represents X-ray polarization data from the NASA Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer. The pink and purple colors are consistent with data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, which previously observed Vela. NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope provided images of stars in the background

About 10,000 years ago, light from the explosion of a giant star in the constellation Parus arrived on Earth.

This supernova left behind a dense object called a pulsar. It regularly gets brighter as it rotates, which is why scientists call it the cosmic beacon.

Winds of particles fly off the surface of the pulsar. They move at close to the speed of light and crash into the surrounding gas. This phenomenon is called the Pulsar Wind Nebula.

In the new image, the hazy light blue halo corresponds to the first-ever polarization data for X-rays from a pulsar in the Vela Nebula.

They were obtained using the NASA Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer or IXPE instrument.

The pale blue line in the upper right corner corresponds to a jet of high-energy particles ejected from the pulsar at about half the speed of light.

Pink X-ray “arcs” mark the edges of donut-shaped regions where the pulsar wind shakes and accelerates high-energy particles. The pulsar itself is located in the white circle in the center of the image.

NASA unveils space beacon 3
An image taken by the NASA Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE) observations of the wind nebula of the Vela pulsar. The colors represent different X-ray intensities, with the brightest areas in red and the dimmest in blue. Black lines show magnetic field directions based on IXPE data, silver lines show magnetic field directions based on Australian compact array radio data. The gray outlines show the X-ray intensity from the Chandra data. The pulsar is located near the center of the brightest X-ray emission

In a recent study, scientists were surprised by the high degree of polarization they found in X-rays in the wind nebula of the Vela pulsar. This means that the electromagnetic fields are well organized.

They are lined up in certain directions and depend on their position in the nebula. The IXPE data also show that the magnetic field is aligned in a smooth doughnut-shaped structure around the pulsar’s equator.

The Vela pulsar, located at a distance of about 1000 light years from Earth, has a diameter of about 25 kilometers. It rotates at a speed of 11 times per second – faster than a helicopter propeller.


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