New Chandra Telescope Footage Features Neutron Star Action
by NASA staff
Unlike with some blockbuster films, the sequel to a movie from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory is better than the first. This latest movie features a deeper look at a fast moving jet of particles produced by a rapidly rotating neutron star, and may provide new insight into the nature of some of the densest matter in the universe.
The hero of this Chandra movie is the Vela pulsar, a neutron star that was formed when a massive star collapsed. The Vela pulsar is about 1,000 light-years from Earth, about 12 miles in diameter, and makes a complete rotation in 89 milliseconds, faster than a helicopter rotor.
As the pulsar whips around, it spews out a jet of charged particles that race along the pulsar’s rotation axis at about 70 percent of the speed of light. The new Chandra data, which were obtained from June to September 2010, suggest the pulsar may be slowly wobbling, or precessing, as it spins. The period of the precession, which is analogous to the slow wobble of a spinning top, is estimated to be about 120 days…