NASA's Chandra X-Ray Observatory captured this awesome video of the Vela pulsar, a rapidly rotating neutron star, spewing a long stream of high-energy particles into space:
The actual pulsar is just 12 miles across (see the labelled image below), but the stream of particles it's emitting extends over 4 trillion miles into space. The pulsar's enormous power comes from the fact that it is unimaginably dense: a thimble-full of neutron star has about the same mass as six billion people. (That's because it formed after a giant star exploded 10,000 years ago, in a supernova that ripped apart atoms and sent everything lighter than the nucleus flying off into space. The remaining neutrons condensed to form the neutron star.)
Also, Vela is spinning faster than the rotor on a helicopter, at a rate of about 11 rotations per second. (That's hard enough to imagine, but incredibly, there are pulsars that spin much more rapidly--the fastest currently known makes 716 rotations per second.)
You may have noticed the helix-like shape of the jet stream coming off of Vela--scientists think that means that the pulsar may be precessing, or wobbling, on its axis as it spins, like this:
How come the stream in the video looks so directional is the neutron is spinning?
It's rather mind boggling, considering the distance we are watching!
See life in all its beautiful colors, and
from different perspectives too!
If the picture was point straight up, I think it was a candle with a flame\smoke and tiny little breeze blowing it from the side. I guess there must a wispy solar breeze nearby. WoW, the cosmos is a strange place.
@suggestivesimon: It appears the assumption is that the jet of high-energy particles is coming from one of the pulsars poles, i.e. from its axis of rotation. For example, if earth were to emit a stream of high energy particles like this pulsar, the stream would come from either the north or south pole.
The reason it forms that helical pattern is assumed to be because of precession of the pulsars axis of rotation. For example, when you spin a top (if you don't know what a top is, I simply can't help you) you will notice that after it stabilizes it will normally track a small circle at either pole of its axis of rotation. That is precession. That is what the second video in this article is explaining.
Fun fact: The earths axis of rotation is also precessing. Just at a much slower rate. That means earths axis won't always point at the north star (it actually doesn't point exactly at the north star right now).
@ monkeybuttons ; Yeah, our North isn't really a pole right now. More like a region of congruency...if that's the right word. So, we have our sun cycle at high activity. We have the Pacific Rim heating up, and more than supplemented by the awakening Yellowstone Caldera that is overdue now. For that matter, Mt. Rainier is also a volcano that was very regular in it's eruption cycle, and now it is also considerably overdue.
A new star chart and map would have Proxima and Alpha Centauri as well as Vela and Vega each taking turns playing North Star, over a congruency where both weight and density are fluctuating as the lava tubes begin filling just when all of the biggest plasma eruptions on the sun are reaching out to give us the kiss of death. While Luna is scattering part of these massive gravitational eddies, we surely will have to go through much suffering before our people and our lives get back on solid footing again.
how much thrust is being generated?