Astronomers have used an X-ray image to make the first detailed study of the behavior of high-energy particles around a fast moving pulsar. The image, from NASAs Chandra X-ray Observatory, shows the shock wave created as a pulsar plows supersonically through interstellar space. These results will provide insight into theories for the production of powerful winds of matter and antimatter by pulsars.
A shock wave traveling through space (NASA/CXC/SAO/B. Gaensler et al.)
Chandras image of the glowing cloud, known as the Mouse, shows a stubby bright column of high-energy particles, about four light years in length, swept back by the pulsars interaction with interstellar gas. The intense source at the head of the X-ray column is the pulsar, estimated to be moving through space at about 1.3 million miles per hour.
A cone-shaped cloud of radio-wave-emitting particles envelopes the X-ray column. The Mouse, a.k.a. G359.23-0.82, was discovered in 1987 by radio astronomers using the National Science Foundations Very Large Array in New Mexico. It gets its name from its appearance in radio images that show a compact snout, a bulbous body, and a remarkable long, narrow, tail that extends for about 55 light years.
Steve Roy | EurekAlert!
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