New View of the Vela Pulsar –“A Vast, Natural Particle Accelerator”



The Vela pulsar is a neutron star about 12 miles in diameter, itself spinning at a dizzying 11 times per second and the brightest and most persistent source of gamma rays in the sky. The pulsar and the supernova remnant was created by a massive star which exploded over 10,000 years ago. Due to its behavior, it produces tremendously powerful electric and magnetic fields, which go on to accelerate particles in the remnant to nearly the speed of light. In effect, the pulsar is producing a vast, natural particle accelerator.

The image above is the Fermi's Gamma-ray Space Telescope's view via its Large Area Telescope of the gamma rays emitted by the Vela pulsar from August 2008 to August 2010.  The pulsar, discovered by astronomers at the University of Sydney in 1968, was the first direct observational proof that supernovae form neutron stars."

The space telescope orbits the Earth every 95 minutes while rocking between the north and the south on alternate orbits, all thw while completing one rotation every 54 days to keep its solar panels facing the sun.

The Vela pulsar is the collapsed stellar core within the Vela supernova remnant –the massive star that formed this structure blew up between 11,000 and 12,300 years ago, astronomers have established. 
More massive than the Sun, it has the density of an atomic nucleus.The pulsar's electric and magnetic fields accelerate particles to nearly the speed of light, powering the compact x-ray emission nebula revealed in the Chandra image below.



The Daily Galaxy via Fermi Space Telescope

Image credit: NASA, DOE, International Fermi LAT Collaboration

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