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X-ray telescopes caught the "bones of a ghostly hand"

01 ноября 2023

X-ray telescopes caught the "bones of a ghostly hand"

An international team of astronomers using two X-ray space telescopes at once obtained an image of a magnetic field that looks like the bones of a giant cosmic arm in X-ray radiation.


As he writes Phys.org combining the capabilities of two telescopes made it possible to observe the behavior of a dead collapsing star, which continues to exist due to plumes of particles of charged matter and antimatter. This giant star died about 1,500 years ago. It used up all its nuclear fuel and turned into an extremely dense object, becoming a neutron star.


The pulsar was named PSR B1509-58. It was discovered in 2001 by the X-ray space observatory Chandra X-ray Observatory. The very first observations of the pulsar nebula, named MSH 15-52, showed that it visually resembles a human hand. The pulsar itself is located at the base of the "palm". By the way, the MSH 15-52 nebula is located at a distance of 16,000 light-years from Earth.


In the new study, scientists observed the specified object for 17 days using the latest X-ray telescope Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE). Moreover, for this telescope, the observation data turned out to be the longest observations of any individual object since its launch in December 2021.


"The IXPE data gives us the first map of the magnetic field in this 'hand,'" says study leader Roger Romani of Stanford University in California. "Charged particles producing X-rays move along the magnetic field, determining the basic shape of the nebula, as do the bones in the human hand."


The IXPE observations provided new information about the orientation of the electric field of X-rays determined by the magnetic field of the X-ray source. This phenomenon is known as X-ray polarization. The study showed that in the large regions of the MSH 15-52 nebula, the degree of this polarization is extremely high. Sometimes, it reaches the maximum that only theoretical works have assumed so far.


To achieve such a force, the magnetic field must be very straight and uniform, scientists believe. This means that there is almost no turbulence in large areas of the nebula. Another interesting feature of MSH 15-52 turned out to be a bright X-ray jet directed from the pulsar to the "wrist" in the lower part of the image. The new IXPE data show that the polarization at the beginning of the jet is low. Probably, there is a turbulent region characterized by complex and tangled magnetic fields. However, closer to the end of the jet, the magnetic field lines straighten and become more uniform, as a result of which the polarization increases noticeably.


The full study is published in The Astrophysical Journal.

Source: RG.RU