Image: Pulsar encased in a supernova bubble

Jun 02, 2014
Credit: ESA/XMM-Newton/ L. Oskinova/M. Guerrero; CTIO/R. Gruendl/Y.H. Chu

(Phys.org) —Massive stars end their lives with a bang: exploding as spectacular supernovas, they release huge amounts of mass and energy into space. These explosions sweep up any surrounding material, creating bubble remnants that expand into interstellar space. At the heart of bubbles like these are small, dense neutron stars or black holes, the remains of what once shone brightly as a star.

Since supernova-carved bubbles shine for only a few tens of thousands of years before dissolving, it is rare to come across or that are still enclosed within their expanding shell. This image captures such an unusual scene, featuring both a strongly magnetised, rotating neutron star – known as a – and its cosmic cloak, the remains of the explosion that generated it.

This pulsar, named SXP 1062, lies in the outskirts of the Small Magellanic Cloud, one of the satellite galaxies of our Milky Way galaxy. It is an object known as an X-ray pulsar: it hungrily gobbles up material from a nearby and burps off X-rays as it does so. In the future, this scene may become even more dramatic, as SXP 1062 has a massive companion star that has not yet exploded as a supernova.

Most pulsars whirl around incredibly quickly, spinning many times per second. However, by exploring the expanding bubble around this pulsar and estimating its age, astronomers have noticed something intriguing: SXP 1062 seems to be rotating far too slowly for its age. It is actually one of the slowest pulsars known.

While the cause of this weird sluggishness is still a mystery, one explanation may be that the pulsar has an unusually strong magnetic field, which would slow the rotation.

The diffuse blue glow at the centre of the bubble in this image represents X-ray emission from both the pulsar and the hot gas that fills the expanding bubble. The other fuzzy blue objects visible in the background are extragalactic X-ray sources.

This image combines X-ray data from ESA's XMM-Newton (shown in blue) with optical observations from the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile. The optical data were obtained using two special filters that reveal the glow of oxygen (shown in green) and hydrogen (shown in red). The size of the image is equivalent to a distance of 457 light-years on a side.

This image was first published in 2011. It is based on data from the paper "Discovery of a Be/X-ray pulsar binary and associated supernova remnant in the Wing of the Small Magellanic Cloud" by V. Hénault-Brunet, et al. 2012.

Explore further: Hardy star survives supernova blast

More information: "Discovery of a Be/X-ray pulsar binary and associated supernova remnant in the Wing of the Small Magellanic Cloud." V. Hénault-Brunet, L. M. Oskinova, M. A. Guerrero, et al. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society: Letters 420 (1) L13 (2012) DOI: 10.1111/j.1745-3933.2011.01183.x

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Celestial bauble intrigues astronomers

Dec 20, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- With the holiday season in full swing, a new image from an assembly of telescopes has revealed an unusual cosmic ornament. Data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and ESA's XMM-Newton have ...

Hardy star survives supernova blast

Mar 20, 2014

(Phys.org) —When a massive star runs out fuel, it collapses and explodes as a supernova. Although these explosions are extremely powerful, it is possible for a companion star to endure the blast. A team ...

Image: Star-forming region ON2

Mar 24, 2014

(Phys.org) —Massive stars are born in tumultuous clouds of gas and dust. They lead a brief but intense life, blowing powerful winds of particles and radiation that strike their surroundings, before their ...

Supernova cleans up its surroundings

Apr 10, 2014

(Phys.org) —Supernovas are the spectacular ends to the lives of many massive stars. These explosions, which occur on average twice a century in the Milky Way, can produce enormous amounts of energy and ...

Has the speediest pulsar been found?

Jun 28, 2012

(Phys.org) -- NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and ESA's XMM-Newton in space, and the Parkes radio telescope in Australia -- may have found the fastest moving pulsar ever seen.

Recommended for you

The origins of local planetary orbits

1 hour ago

A plutino is an asteroid-sized body that orbits the Sun in a 2:3 resonance with Neptune. They are named after Pluto, which also orbits the Sun twice for every three orbits of Neptune. It is thought that Pluto ...

Wild ducks take flight in open cluster

2 hours ago

The Wide Field Imager on the MPG/ESO 2.2-meter telescope at ESO's La Silla Observatory in Chile has taken this beautiful image, dappled with blue stars, of one of the most star-rich open clusters currently ...

Image: The Pillars of Creation

2 hours ago

The Pillars of Creation (seen above) is an image of a portion of the Eagle nebula (M16) taken by Hubble Space Telescope in 1995. It soon became one of the most iconic space images of all time. The Eagle nebula ...

User comments : 0