Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Hand of Nyarlathotep?

Is Nyarlathotep at work again?

17,000 light-years from Earth, a rapidly spinning neutron star known as PSR B1509-58 spews out patterns of energy that look like a blue cosmic hand in this Chandra X-ray image.

The scientific story behind the Chandra X-ray Observatory's image of PSR B1509-58 (or B1509 for short): The image shows a pulsar - that is, a rapidly spinning neutron star - in the southern constellation Circinus. The pulsar has a magnetic field at its surface that's estimated to be 15 trillion times as strong as Earth's, and that makes B1509 one of the most powerful electromagnetic generators in the galaxy.

All that energy drives streams of electrons and ions through the nebula surrounding the star, and in the picture above, those streams are shown in blue. When the magnetically charged torrents hit knots of material in a neighboring cloud of gas known as RCW 89, the energy is released in X-ray emissions that are shown here in red.

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