The Half-Astrophysicist Blog

Thing (in X-Rays)

The Chandra X-ray telescope has released a new image of a pulsar called B1509.  I am affectionately calling it Thing, after the Adams Family.

Image Credit  NASA/CXC/SAO/P.Slane

Image Credit NASA/CXC/SAO/P.Slane

A pulsar forms when a massive star ends its life as a supernova.  The core collapses, crushes the atoms themselves until nothing but neutrons remain.  The core ends up rotating very rapidly (in this case 7 times a second).  Pulsars have very strong magnetic fields.  The rapid rotation and strong magnetic field create copious amounts of X-rays in the nebula leading to this spectacular image.

Of course we couldn’t see this with out eyes that only detect visible light.  To creat this image, astronomers assign each different energy of X-rays to a color.  The low energy x-rays are red, middle energy green, and high energy x-rays are blue.

Chandra is one of NASA’s Great Observatories (along with Hubble, Spitzer and the defunct Comptong Gamma Ray Observatory) but does not get the coverage of the more famous Hubble.  It’s a shame since it has been dong great since and will celebrate the 10th anniversary of its launch this summer.  I hope to see thse images for many more years to come from this amazing telescope.


April 8, 2009 - Posted by | Astronomy, NASA

1 Comment »

  1. Err, that’s Addams family … and you may be interested to learn that another astronomer spontaneously thought about Homer Simpson grabbing a donut. Aren’t we astronomers all a bit weird …? 🙂

    Comment by Daniel Fischer | April 9, 2009 | Reply

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