A Cocoon of High-Energy Particles Found Inside the "Black Widow"

PureInsight | March 24, 2003

[PureInsight.org] NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory image of the mysterious "Black Widow" pulsar reveals the first direct evidence of an elongated cocoon of high-energy particles. (A pulsar is a rotating neutron star producing powerful beams of radiation that sweep the heavens like a searchlight.) This discovery shows this billion-year-old rejuvenated pulsar is an extremely efficient generator of a high-speed flow of matter and anti-matter particles.

Known officially as pulsar B1957+20, the Black Widow received its nickname because it is emitting intense high- energy radiation that is destroying its companion through evaporation. B1957+20, which completes one rotation every 1.6-thousandths of a second, belongs to a class of extremely rapidly rotating neutron stars called millisecond pulsars.

The motion of B1957+20 through the galaxy, almost a million kilometers per hour, creates a bowed shock wave visible to optical telescopes. The Chandra observation shows what cannot be seen in visible light: a secondary shock wave. This secondary shock wave is created from pressure that sweeps the wind back from the pulsar to form the cocoon of high-energy particles, visible for the first time in the Chandra data.


The Chinese version is available at http://www.zhengjian.org/zj/articles/2003/3/2/20636.html

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