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.
2003 July 3
Explanation: The Vela pulsar is a neutron star born over 10,000 years ago in a massive supernova explosion. Above, false-colour x-ray images from the Chandra Observatory reveal details of this remnant pulsar's x-ray bright nebula along with emission from a spectacular jet of high-energy particles. In this time-lapse series of pictures, the jet seems to dance around very much like an out-of-control firehose, shooting along the pulsar's direction of motion (toward the top right corner) to a length of about half a light-year while whipping back and forth at about half the speed of light. Highly magnetized and spinning over 10 times a second, the Vela pulsar is thought of as a cosmic high-voltage generator, powering the x-ray nebula and dynamic cosmic jet. A mere 800 light-years away the pulsar itself is located near the lower left corner in the four panels.
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& Michigan Tech. U.