Image of the Day: Monster Pulsar at the Center of the Crab Nebula (Weekend Feature)


The Crab Nebula is a pulsar wind nebula and a supernova remnant that was recorded by Chinese astronomers and Arab astronomers in 1054 AD with a luminosity about 75,000 times greater than that of the Sun in the constellation of Taurus. At the center of the nebula lurks the Crab Pulsar, a rotating neutron star, which emits pulses of radiation from gamma rays to radio waves with a spin rate of 30.2 times per second. The discovery of a pulsating radio source in the centre of the Crab Nebula was strong evidence that the pulsar is the crushed core of a massive star that long ago exploded as a supernova. Neutron stars pack more than the sun's mass into a ball nearly 60,000 times smaller. With estimated sizes between 10 and 15 miles across, a neutron star would just span across Manhattan.

"It's difficult to establish precise masses for neutron stars, especially toward the higher end of the mass range theory predicts," said Craig Markwardt at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt. "As a result, we don't know their internal structure or sizes as well as we'd like. This system takes us a step closer to narrowing that down."

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