Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.
2002 September 20
Explanation: How does a city-sized neutron star power the vast Crab Nebula? The expulsion of wisps of hot gas at high speeds appears to be at least part of the answer. Yesterday time-lapse movies taken from both the Chandra X-ray Observatory and the Hubble Space Telescope were released showing a wisp of gas moving out at about half the speed of light. Wisps like this likely result from tremendous electric voltages created by the central pulsar, a rapidly rotating, magnetized, central neutron star. The hot plasma strikes existing gas, causing it glow in colours across the electromagnetic spectrum. Pictured above is a composite image of the centre of the Crab Nebula where red represents radio emission, green represents visible emission, and blue represents X-ray emission. The dot at the very centre is the hot pulsar spinning 30 times per second.
Authors & editors:
Jerry Bonnell (USRA)
NASA Technical Rep.: Jay Norris. Specific rights apply.
A service of: LHEA at NASA/ GSFC
& Michigan Tech. U.