Universe  ID: 11185

Ballistic Helix

The Vela pulsar is a rapidly rotating neutron star located about 1,000 light-years from Earth in the Milky Way galaxy. A bright jet of charged particles and electromagnetic radiation, traveling
at nearly three-quarters of the speed of light, shoots from its axis. In 2010, NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory snapped a series of images over a period of four months that showed the pulsar's jet blasting material into space. Using these images, scientists modeled the jet's motion. To their surprise, the movement followed a winding path resembling that of a rotating helix. If their model is accurate, it means the pulsar may be off-balance, wobbling as it spins—a feature never before seen. Watch the video to see a time-lapse view of the pulsar as seen by the Chandra X-ray Observatory.

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Story Credits

Lead Writer:
Alex Kasprak (USRA)

Please give credit for this item to:
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center
Cover image courtesy of NASA/CXC/M.Weiss
Pulsar video and images courtesy of NASA/CXC/University of Toronto/M. Durant et al.
Chandra image courtesy of NASA/CXC/NGST

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