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News Release 530 of 966

September 19, 2002 01:00 PM (EDT)

News Release Number: STScI-2002-24

Space Movie Reveals Shocking Secrets of the Crab Pulsar

A Space Science Update Release

September 19, 2002: Just when it seemed like the summer movie season had ended, two of NASA's Great Observatories have produced their own action movie. Multiple observations made over several months with NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and the Hubble Space Telescope captured the spectacle of matter and antimatter propelled to near the speed of light by the Crab pulsar, a rapidly rotating neutron star the size of Manhattan.

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Q & A: Understanding the Discovery

  1. 1. What is the movie revealing about the Crab pulsar?


  2. By combining the power of both Chandra and Hubble, the movie reveals features never seen in still images. By understanding the Crab, astronomers hope to unlock the secrets of how similar objects across the Universe are powered.

    Bright wisps can be seen moving outward at half the speed of light to form an expanding ring that is visible in both X-ray and optical images. These wisps appear to originate from a shock wave that shows up as an inner X-ray ring. This ring consists of about two dozen knots that form, brighten and fade, jitter around, and occasionally undergo outbursts that give rise to expanding clouds of particles, but remain in roughly the same location.

    Another dramatic feature of the movie is a turbulent jet that lies perpendicular to the inner and outer rings. Violent internal motions are obvious, as is a slow motion outward into the surrounding nebula of particles and magnetic field. Astronomers said that the jet looks like steam from a high-pressure boiler.

 
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Credits for X-ray Image: NASA/CXC/ASU/J. Hester et al.

Credits for Optical Image: NASA/HST/ASU/J. Hester et al.