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Distant pulsar seen spewing record-breaking particle jet into space

Feb. 18, 2014 at 7:12 PM   |   Comments

GREENBELT, Md., Feb. 18 (UPI) -- NASA says its Chandra observatory has seen a fast-moving pulsar escaping a supernova remnant and spewing out a record-breaking jet of high-energy particles.

The peculiar behavior of the pulsar tracked by the Chandra X-ray Observatory can likely be traced back to its birth in the collapse and subsequent explosion of a massive star, the space agency said Tuesday.

Located about 60 light-years away from the center of the supernova remnant SNR MSH 11-61A in the constellation of Carina, its estimated speed between 2.5 million and 5 million mph makes it one of the fastest pulsars ever observed, astronomers said.

The pulsar's jet of high-energy particles is the longest from any object in the Milky Way galaxy, they said.

"We've never seen an object that moves this fast and also produces a jet," Lucia Pavan of the University of Geneva in Switzerland said. "By comparison, this jet is almost 10 times longer than the distance between the sun and our nearest star."

Usually, the spin axis and jets of a pulsar point in the same direction as they are moving, but this pulsar's spin axis and direction of motion are almost at right angles, the astronomers said.

"With the pulsar moving one way and the jet going another, this gives us clues that exotic physics can occur when some stars collapse," study co-author Gerd Puehlhofer of the University of Tuebingen said.

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