Universe  ID: 4648

Pulsar Current Sheets - All Particle Flows

Scientists studying what amounts to a computer-simulated “pulsar in a box” are gaining a more detailed understanding of the complex, high-energy environment around spinning neutron stars, also called pulsars. The model traces the paths of charged particles in magnetic and electric fields near the neutron star, revealing behaviors that may help explain how pulsars emit gamma-ray and radio pulses with ultraprecise timing.

A pulsar is the crushed core of a massive star that exploded as a supernova. The core is so compressed that more mass than the Sun's squeezes into a ball no wider than Manhattan Island in New York City. This process also revvs up its rotation and strengthens its magnetic and electric fields.

Various physical processes ensure that most of the particles around a pulsar are either electrons or their antimatter counterparts, positrons. To trace the behavior and energies of these particles, the researchers used a comparatively new type of pulsar model called a “particle in cell” (PIC) simulation.

The PIC technique lets scientists explore the pulsar from first principles, starting with a spinning, magnetized meutron star. The computer code injects electrons and positrons at the pulsar's surface and tracks how they interact with the electric and magnetic fields. It's computationally intensive because the particle motions affect the fields and the fields affect the particles, and everything is moving near the speed of light.

This visualization shows the all the simulation particles, the low speed (bulk) particle flows, and the high energy electrons and positrons, moviing around the pulsar. Darker blue trails represent slow electrons, darker red trails represent slow positrons. White trails indicate high speed (relativisitic) particles.

Used Elsewhere In


Visualization Credits

Tom Bridgman (GST): Lead Data Visualizer
Scott Wiessinger (USRA): Lead Producer
Francis Reddy (University of Maryland College Park): Lead Science Writer
Gabriele Brambilla (University of Milan): Lead Scientist
Alice Harding (NASA/GSFC): Scientist
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NASA's Scientific Visualization Studio

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Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope

Data Used:
Brambilla Pulsar Model
Note: While we identify the data sets used in these visualizations, we do not store any further details nor the data sets themselves on our site.

This item is part of these series:
Astrophysics Visualizations
Pulsar Current Sheets

SVS >> Electron
SVS >> Magnetic Fields
SVS >> Neutron Star
SVS >> Positron
SVS >> Hyperwall
SVS >> Pulsar
NASA Science >> Universe