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.
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.
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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