Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/SAO/T.Temim et al. and ESA/XMM-Newton Radio: SIFA/MOST and CSIRO/ATNF/ATCA; Infrared: UMass/IPAC-Caltech/NASA/NSF/2MASS
A pulsar throbs in the middle of this unusual nebula created by a supernova explosion.
Zoom in and explore the inside of G327.1-1.1 in this image from the Chandra X-ray Observatory. What shapes do you make out in this nebula? A fish? A trilobite? Let us know what you see by leaving a comment below.
G327 is all that’s left after a massive star exploded in the Milky Way Galaxy. Astronomers call this structure a pulsar wind nebula. The pulsar likely is the bluish blob at the heart of the nebula. After a supernova explosion, the core of the star is all that remains. This dense and highly magnetic neutron star spins thousands of times per minute and is called a pulsar. As viewed from Earth, these stars pulse with radio energy at regular rates. The rate is so steady, that astronomers know pulsars by the frequency of their pulses and they use them as yardsticks to measure distances.
The image is a combination of images with X-ray images represented by the colors blue, radio information showing as red and yellow and infrared data from the 2MASS survey showing the stars in the field of view. Explore the reddish outline showing the leading edge of the blast. Astronomers are not certain why the nebula is off-center from the pulsar nor the comet-shaped structure streaming from the pulsar itself. One possibility is that a shockwave bounced back from the material at the edge of the nebula. Scientists call this a reverse shock and it could have pushed the wind nebula down and away from the star.
G327.1-1.1 is found about 29,000 light-years from Earth toward the constellation Norma.