NASA’s latest X-ray space telescope, known as the Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE), has captured a stunning image of a celestial event in deep space that resembles a skeletal hand. This ghostly view was created by the death of a massive star, resulting in a supernova explosion and the formation of a rare celestial object called a pulsar.
Pulsars are rotating neutron stars with incredibly strong magnetic fields that produce powerful jets of charged particles and a pulsar wind nebula. One particular pulsar, known as PSR B1509-58, injects these particles into space, forming a glowing shape that remarkably resembles a human hand.
In order to gather new insights about the pulsar’s magnetic field and the orientation of its X-ray jets, scientists turned to the IXPE. This cutting-edge telescope allowed researchers to detect high levels of polarization in the pulsar wind nebula, specifically in a region known as MSH 15-52. The absence of turbulence in this area indicates the presence of straight and uniform magnetic field lines.
The presence of complex and turbulent regions in the pulsar wind nebula gives particles an “energy boost,” creating distinct and bright X-ray jets. By studying these jets, scientists can gain a better understanding of the life history of energetic matter and antimatter particles near the pulsar.
MSH 15-52 itself was first observed by NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory back in 2001. It is situated a staggering 16,000 light-years away from Earth, making it a remarkable discovery for astronomers and space enthusiasts alike.
The new observations provided by IXPE offer valuable insights into the nature of pulsars and the phenomena occurring in their immediate surroundings. As technology continues to advance, scientists hope to unravel the secrets of the universe and gain a deeper understanding of these fascinating celestial phenomena.
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