Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2001 July 19

Pulsar Wind in the Vela Nebula
Credit: CXC, SAO, NASA

Explanation: The Vela pulsar was born 10,000 years ago at the center of a supernova -- an exploding star. In this Chandra Observatory x-ray image, the pulsar still produces a glowing nebula at the heart of the expanding cloud of stellar debris. The pulsar itself is a neutron star, formed as the stellar core was compacted to nuclear densities. With a strong magnetic field, approximately the mass of the Sun, and a diameter of about 20 kilimeters, the Vela pulsar rotates 11 times a second. The sharp Chandra image aids astronomers in understanding such extreme systems as efficient generators of high voltages which drive structured winds of electrically charged particles. An x-ray bright nebula is created as the pulsar winds slam into the surrounding material. This view spans about 6 light-years across the central region of the much larger Vela supernova remnant.

Tomorrow's picture: Pixels in Space

< | Archive | Index | Search | Calendar | Glossary | Education | About APOD | >

Authors & editors: Robert Nemiroff (MTU) & Jerry Bonnell (USRA)
NASA Technical Rep.: Jay Norris. Specific rights apply.
A service of: LHEA at NASA/ GSFC
& Michigan Tech. U.