Science & Tech

Nebula resembles gigantic cosmic crossbow

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Chandra reveals compact nebula created by shooting neutron star

NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory captured the details of a compact nebula that resembles a gigantic cosmic crossbow. The nebula, located in the Vela supernova remnant, is created as a rapidly rotating neutron star, or pulsar, spins out rings and jets of high energy particles while shooting through space. The X-ray jet can be traced all the way into the neutron star, and an inner ring is seen for the first time. This ring is thought to represent a shock wave due to matter rushing away from the neutron star. More focused flows at the neutron star’s polar regions produce jets of particles that blast away at near the speed of light. “What is fascinating is that the jets from the pulsar are directed exactly along the direction of the pulsar’s motion,” said George Pavlov of Penn State University. “The southern jet looks like a rocket exhaust!” Pavlov explained that shortly after the star exploded, jets with unequal thrust along the poles of the neutron star could have accelerated it like a rocket.