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Chandra Image of a Pulsar Wind Nebula
Credit: NASA/CXC/SAO/P.Slane, et al.


Reach for the Sky

What created that strange, hand-shaped object pictured above in another stunning image from the Chandra X-ray Observatory? This object is actually an extended cloud of high-energy charged particles accelerated by the intense electromagnetic field of a pulsar called PSR B1509-58. This pulsar, a rapidly spinning neutron star, is located near the intense white dot near the center of the image. As the neutron star spins, it accelerates charged particles outwards into space, forming (for some reason not entirely clear) fingers of "pulsar wind" stretching towards the top of the image. At the tips of the fingers lies a low-energy X-ray emitting cloud called RCW 89, powered by energy transferred from the pulsar's wind. Aside from the Crab Nebula, PSR B1509-58 is one of the best examples that astronomers have of the interaction between such pulsar wind nebulae and the stellar environment.
Published: July 26, 2010


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Each week the HEASARC brings you new, exciting and beautiful images from X-ray and Gamma ray astronomy. Check back each week and be sure to check out the HEAPOW archive!


Page Author: Dr. Michael F. Corcoran


Last modified Sunday, 01-Aug-2010 21:35:22 EDT