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NASA Chandra X-Ray's Rose-like Image of the Slowest Pulsar on Instagram is Breathtaking

Image by @nasachandraxray / Instagram.

Image by @nasachandraxray / Instagram.

Pulsar SXP 1062 rotates surprisingly slowly, which is once every 18 minutes. The fastest pulsar is the PSR J1748-2446ad which rotates 716 times per second.

If space is a garden, then the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) just posted a picture of one of its most spectacular flowers. On Tuesday NASA Chandra X-Ray posted a photograph of a bright pulsar on its Instagram handle. NASA wrote that the pulsar is roughly 20 kilometers in diameter and that the bright source of light on the right side of the image is pulsar SXP 1062, which rotates surprisingly slowly which is once every 18 minutes. In the caption, the space agency also informed that the fastest pulsar is the PSR J1748-2446ad which rotates 716 times per second.

The post has been liked by over 21k Instagram users as they express their reactions. One of the users wrote, “That looks like a rose in the middle? Amazing.” While another user commented, “Vibing like jelly fishes.” For some, NASA’s latest post was “Fascinating information.”

A pulsar is the core of a massive star that exploded as a supernova. In this remnant of a star which is also called a neutron star, the equivalent mass of half a million Earth is crushed into a magnetized, spinning ball which is as large as Washington, D.C. The rotating magnetic field powers beams of radio waves, visible light, X-rays and gamma rays. NASA explains that if a beam happens to sweep across Earth, astronomers observe regular pulses of emission and classify the object as a pulsar.

NASA’s Chandra website explains that the composite image consists of X-rays from Chandra and XMM-Newton that have been coloured blue and optical data from the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile are coloured red and green.

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Scientists found that SXP 1062 is a remnant of supernova because of the diffused X-rays and optical shell surrounding the pulsar. NASA says that the optical data also shows mind-blowing formations of gas and dust in a star-forming region on the left side of the image. After scientists compared the Chandra image with optical images, they found that the pulsar has a hot, massive companion.

What makes SXP 1062 interesting for astronomers is the Chandra and XMM-Newton data that shows that it is rotating unusually slowly. This relatively leisurely pace of SXP 1062 makes it one of the slowest rotating X-ray pulsars in the SMC.

It is speculated that SXP 1062 is between 10,000 and 40,000 years old, in the image that was shared on Instagram. However, that does not make it old but quite young, from an astronomical perspective as astronomers believe that it was most likely formed in the same explosion that produced the supernova remnant.