Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Firehose-like jet discovered in action

01.07.2003


Photo: Chandra image of the Vela pulsar (NASA/CXC/Penn State/G. Pavlov et al.)


An X-ray movie of the Vela pulsar, made from a series of observations by NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, reveals a spectacularly erratic jet that varies in a way never seen before. The jet of high-energy particles whips about like an untended firehose at about half the speed of light. This behavior gives scientists new insight into the nature of jets from pulsars and black holes.

Chandra observed the Vela pulsar, a rotating neutron star, 13 times between January 2000 and August 2002. These observations, which were designed to study the nature of the outflow of matter and antimatter from the pulsar led to the discovery that an outer jet of particles was bending and moving sideways at phenomenal speeds.

"This jet is half a light year in length, and is shooting out ahead of the moving pulsar," said George Pavlov of Pennsylvania State University in University Park, lead author of a paper in the July 10th issue of The Astrophysical Journal. "The most striking thing about this jet is how rapidly it changes both its shape and brightness. Such strong, fast variability has never been observed in astrophysical jets."



The time-lapse movie shows that in a matter of weeks the jet changes from being straight to hook-shaped, while bright blobs move along the jet at about half the speed of light. The jet is composed of extremely high-energy electrons or positrons (an antimatter form of electrons) that are spiraling around a magnetic field. The particles in the jet are created and accelerated by voltages 100 million times that of a lightning bolt. These voltages produced by the combined action of the fast rotation of the neutron star and its intense magnetic field.

Over its entire length, the width of the jet remains approximately constant. This suggests that the jet is confined by magnetic fields generated by electrons flowing along the axis of the jet. Laboratory studies of jets or beams have shown that they can change rapidly due to an effect called the "firehose instability."

"Imagine a firehose lying on the ground," said Marcus Teter, also of Penn State and co-author on the paper. "After you turn on the water, you will see different parts of the hose kinking up, and moving rapidly in different directions, pushed by the increased pressure at the bends in the hose. The Vela jet resembles a hose made of magnetic fields, which confines the electrically charged particles."

The instability could be triggered by the strong head-wind created as the pulsar moves through the surrounding gas at a speed of 300,000 kilometer per hour (about 200,000 miles per hour). The bright blobs in the jet are thought to be a manifestation of the increased magnetic field and particle pressure at the kinks in the jet.

The observed brightness of the outer jet and the rapid motions of the jet and blobs in it indicate that the bright arcs around the pulsar may not be rings circling its equator, as previously thought. Instead, they may represent shock waves caused by the motion of the inner jet through the cloud of particles around the pulsar.

"The study of pulsar jets is important not only in itself," said Oleg Kargaltsev, a Penn State graduate student and co-investigator, "but it could also help to understand the nature of the enormous jets coming from supermassive black holes. Those jets may also vary, but on time scales of millions of years, instead of weeks as in the Vela pulsar jet."

NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala., manages the Chandra program for the Office of Space Science, NASA Headquarters, Washington. Northrop Grumman of Redondo Beach, Calif., formerly TRW, Inc., was the prime development contractor for the observatory. The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory controls science and flight operations from the Chandra X-ray Center in Cambridge, Mass.

Steve Roy | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://chandra.nasa.gov
http://www1.msfc.nasa.gov/NEWSROOM/news/releases/2003/03-103.html

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht NASA's SDO sees partial eclipse in space
29.05.2017 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

nachricht Strathclyde-led research develops world's highest gain high-power laser amplifier
29.05.2017 | University of Strathclyde

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Strathclyde-led research develops world's highest gain high-power laser amplifier

The world's highest gain high power laser amplifier - by many orders of magnitude - has been developed in research led at the University of Strathclyde.

The researchers demonstrated the feasibility of using plasma to amplify short laser pulses of picojoule-level energy up to 100 millijoules, which is a 'gain'...

Im Focus: Can the immune system be boosted against Staphylococcus aureus by delivery of messenger RNA?

Staphylococcus aureus is a feared pathogen (MRSA, multi-resistant S. aureus) due to frequent resistances against many antibiotics, especially in hospital infections. Researchers at the Paul-Ehrlich-Institut have identified immunological processes that prevent a successful immune response directed against the pathogenic agent. The delivery of bacterial proteins with RNA adjuvant or messenger RNA (mRNA) into immune cells allows the re-direction of the immune response towards an active defense against S. aureus. This could be of significant importance for the development of an effective vaccine. PLOS Pathogens has published these research results online on 25 May 2017.

Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) is a bacterium that colonizes by far more than half of the skin and the mucosa of adults, usually without causing infections....

Im Focus: A quantum walk of photons

Physicists from the University of Würzburg are capable of generating identical looking single light particles at the push of a button. Two new studies now demonstrate the potential this method holds.

The quantum computer has fuelled the imagination of scientists for decades: It is based on fundamentally different phenomena than a conventional computer....

Im Focus: Turmoil in sluggish electrons’ existence

An international team of physicists has monitored the scattering behaviour of electrons in a non-conducting material in real-time. Their insights could be beneficial for radiotherapy.

We can refer to electrons in non-conducting materials as ‘sluggish’. Typically, they remain fixed in a location, deep inside an atomic composite. It is hence...

Im Focus: Wafer-thin Magnetic Materials Developed for Future Quantum Technologies

Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.

Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Marine Conservation: IASS Contributes to UN Ocean Conference in New York on 5-9 June

24.05.2017 | Event News

AWK Aachen Machine Tool Colloquium 2017: Internet of Production for Agile Enterprises

23.05.2017 | Event News

Dortmund MST Conference presents Individualized Healthcare Solutions with micro and nanotechnology

22.05.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

New insights into the ancestors of all complex life

29.05.2017 | Earth Sciences

New photocatalyst speeds up the conversion of carbon dioxide into chemical resources

29.05.2017 | Life Sciences

NASA's SDO sees partial eclipse in space

29.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>