Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2003 July 3
See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download
 the highest resolution version available.

The Vela Pulsar's Dynamic Jet
Credit: G. Pavlov, M. Teter, O. Kargaltsev, D. Sanwal (PSU), CXC, NASA

Explanation: The Vela pulsar is a neutron star born over 10,000 years ago in a massive supernova explosion. Above, false-color x-ray images from the Chandra Observatory reveal details of this remnant pulsar's x-ray bright nebula along with emission from a spectacular jet of high-energy particles. In this time-lapse series of pictures, the jet seems to dance around very much like an out-of-control firehose, shooting along the pulsar's direction of motion (toward the top right corner) to a length of about half a light-year while whipping back and forth at about half the speed of light. Highly magnetized and spinning over 10 times a second, the Vela pulsar is thought of as a cosmic high-voltage generator, powering the x-ray nebula and dynamic cosmic jet. A mere 800 light-years away the pulsar itself is located near the lower left corner in the four panels.

Tomorrow's picture: fireworks

< | Archive | Index | Search | Calendar | Glossary | Education | About APOD | >

Authors & editors: Robert Nemiroff (MTU) & Jerry Bonnell (USRA)
NASA Web Site Statements, Warnings, and Disclaimers
NASA Official: Jay Norris. Specific rights apply.
A service of: LHEA at NASA / GSFC
& Michigan Tech. U.