December 6, 2023

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Stunning NASA image obtained using two X-ray telescopes

Stunning NASA image obtained using two X-ray telescopes

Although James Webb is the device that makes the headlines in Spain, the truth is that there are many space missions capable of surprising scientists. After NASA delighted us on November 30 with a terrifying photo of Jupiter, it’s doing so again with a brutal shot. From a “cosmic” hand.

NASA’s newest triple-telescope X-ray polarimetry space observatory, the X-ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE), has observed a very specific region of the PSR pulsar for about 17 days. -52, worth noting It looks like a ghostly hand.

The pulsar in question is located at the base of the Palm Nebula, and the nebula itself is located about 16,000 light-years from Earth. IXPE has observed this nebula for more than two weeks, or so. This is also the longest object the telescope has observed since its launch in late 2021.

The “Ghost” nebula.

What’s really impressive about the image isn’t just the strange shape of MSH 15-52. Achievement lies in the ability to detect The main structure of the magnetic field Of the nebula like this. Or what is the same as his bones as if they were rays.

But first, we need context. About 1,500 years ago, a giant star in our galaxy ran out of fuel. The expected process occurred; The star collapsed in on itself and formed a body Incredibly dense, it is called a neutron star.

Rotating neutron stars with strong magnetic fields are known as pulsars, and they are a delight to scientists. This is because these pulsars have very specific conditions that are impossible to replicate on Earth. For example, the smallest pulsars They can expel large jets of matter and antimatter Coming from its poles.

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This, along with strong winds, causes the pulsar’s wind nebula. The nebula in question, which belongs to the pulsar PSR B1509-58, was first observed in 2001, by NASA’s Chanda X-ray Observatory. Now these results have been published in an article by Astrophysical Journal.

A copy of the image using X-ray and infrared data from the Chilean dark energy chamber.

NASA/CXC/Stanford University/R. Roman et al. (Chandra); NASA/MSFC


The IXPE Observatory has the capacity to provide data On the direction of the x-ray electric field, It is determined by the magnetic field of the source of these same rays. This is known Such as polarization of X-rays. MSH 15-52 has some regions where the amount of polarization mentioned is very high, achieving what NASA calls the maximum level expected for theoretical work.

Some difficult conditions. In order for these conditions to occur, other very specific conditions must be met, such as the magnetic field being regular and, above all, straight. Hence, little disturbance is achieved in these areas. Roger Romani, from Stanford University in California and director of the study, explains how we obtained this map of the magnetic field of the nebula’s hand.

The Tarantula Nebula, photographed by James Webb.

NASA, European Space Agency, Canadian Space Agency, ERO Web Team


In Roman’s words: “The IXPE data give us the first map of the magnetic field of the ‘hand.’ The charged particles that produce the

Study co-author Josephine Wong (also of Stanford University) explains the importance of X-rays as a diagnostic tool. “We are all familiar with X-rays as a medical diagnostic tool for humans. Here we use X-rays in a different way, but they again reveal information that would otherwise be missing.” It will be hidden from us.”

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This is how the intrinsic structure of MSH 15-52 is revealed. The IXPE data prove that the polarization already mentioned at the beginning of the main X-ray jet (located from the pulsar to the wrist, in the lower part of the image) is low, perhaps because it is “a turbulent region with complex and entangled magnetic processes, associated with the generation of high-energy particles,” NASA explains. .

This is a remarkable discovery, explains Nicolo Di Lalla, another expert at Stanford University who also co-authored the study. “We have discovered the life histories of ultra-energy matter and antimatter particles around the pulsar. This teaches us how pulsars can act as particle accelerators.”

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