Originally discovered by the Fermi Gamma Ray Space Telescope in 2009, Pulsar PSR J0357 had a bit of a surprise for astronomers when NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory turned an eye its way. Even though it might be 1,600 light years from Earth and half a million years old, it would appear this object has a cosmic sense of humor. Stretching across 4.2 light years is an enormous tail…
Viewable only at X-ray wavelengths, this incredible cosmic contrail is the longest ever associated with a so-called “rotation- powered” pulsar. Unlike other pulsars, J0357 gets its power from energy depletion as the spin rate decreases. But where did the plumage come from? According to the Chandra data, it may be an emission from energetic particles in the pulsar wind produced while turning around magnetic field lines. While artifacts of this type have been noted before, they’re classed as bow-shocks generated by the supersonic motion of pulsars through space. From there, the wind pulls the particles along behind it as the pulsar passes through interstellar gas.
But Pulsar PSR J0357 isn’t exactly fitting into a neat a tidy category…
Remove All Ads on Universe Today
Join our Patreon for as little as $3!
Get the ad-free experience for life
According to data taken from Fermi, J0357 is only losing a small amount of energy as its spin rate slows. This means it shouldn’t be producing a particle wind of such proportions. Another anachronism is the placement of the bright portions of the tail – not anywhere near where bow-shocks are associated with pulsars.
“Further observations with Chandra could help test this bow-shock interpretation.” says the Chandra team. “If the pulsar is seen moving in the opposite direction from that of the tail, this would support the bow-shock idea.”
Original News Source: Chandra News.