Astronomers have witnessed a never-seen-before event in observations by ESA’s XMM-Newton spacecraft - a collision between a pulsar and a ring of gas around a neighbouring star.
Pulsar 1259-63 orbits a star (SS 2883) which is bright and visible to amateur astronomers
The rare passage, which took the pulsar plunging into and through this ring, illuminated the sky in gamma- and X-rays. It has revealed a remarkable new insight into the origin and content of ‘pulsar winds’, which has been a long-standing mystery. The scientists described the event as a natural but ‘scaled-up’ version of the well-known Deep Impact satellite collision with Comet Tempel 1.
Their final analysis is based on a new observation from XMM-Newton and a multitude of archived data which will lead to a better understanding of what drives well-known ‘pulsar nebulae’, such as the colourful Crab and Vela pulsars.
Monica Talevi | alfa
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