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Neutron Stars/X-ray Binaries
X-ray Astronomy Field Guide
Neutron Stars/X-ray Binaries
Questions and Answers
Neutron Stars/X-ray Binaries
Chandra Images
Neutron Stars/X-ray Binaries
Animations & Video: Neutron Stars/X-ray Binaries
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Click for high-resolution animation
1. Tour of 47 Tucanae
QuicktimeMPEG Neutron stars are the ultra-dense cores that are often left behind after massive stars run out of fuel and collapse. In fact, these compact objects, which are less than 10 miles in diameter, contain the densest matter known in the Universe outside of a black hole. New results from Chandra and other X-ray telescopes are giving scientists information about important properties of neutron stars. By studying eight neutron stars, a group of researchers have come up with the one of the most reliable determinations yet of the relation between the radius of a neutron star and its mass. They looked at the neutron stars in double, or binary, systems where they are in orbit with stars like our Sun. One of these systems is known as X7 and is found in the globular cluster 47 Tucanae. Because the mass and radius of a neutron star is directly related to interactions between the particles in the interior of the star, the latest results give scientists new information about the inner workings of neutron stars.
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(NASA/CXC/A. Hobart)

Related Chandra Images:

Click for high-resolution animation
2. Tour of Vela Pulsar
QuicktimeMPEG Unlike with some Hollywood films, a sequel of a movie from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory is better than the first. The star of this Chandra movie is the Vela pulsar, a neutron star that was formed when a massive star collapsed. The Vela pulsar is about 1,000 light years from Earth, spans about 12 miles in diameter, and makes a complete rotation in 89 milliseconds, which is faster than a helicopter rotor. As the pulsar whips around, it spews out a jet of charged particles that race out along the pulsar's rotation axis at about 70% the speed of light. The new Chandra data, which were obtained from June to September 2010, suggest that the jet may be slowly wobbling, or precessing, as it spins. The first Chandra movie of Vela came out in 2003, but its shorter and unevenly spaced exposures did not provide clear evidence for precession of the pulsar. If the Vela saga becomes a trilogy, maybe more secrets of this exotic object will be revealed.
[Runtime: 01.09]
(NASA/CXC/A. Hobart)

Related Chandra Images:

Click for high-resolution animation
3. Vela Pulsar Jet Timelapse
QuicktimeMPEG The Chandra data set contains 7 images obtained between June and September 2010, and suggests that the pulsar may be slowly wobbling, or precessing, as it spins. The shape and the motion of the Vela jet look strikingly like a rotating helix, a shape that is naturally explained by precession, as shown in this animation. If the evidence for precession of the Vela pulsar is confirmed, it would be the first time that a jet from a neutron star has been found to be wobbling, or precessing, in this way.
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(NASA/CXC/Univ of Toronto/M.Durant et al)

Related Chandra Images:

Click for high-resolution animation
4. Tour of IGR J11014-6103
QuicktimeMPEG Has the speediest pulsar been found? That's the question that astronomers are asking after three different telescopes looked at the pulsar known as IGR J11014-6103. This pulsar was found racing away from a supernova remnant located about 30,000 light years from Earth. An image from the European Space Agency's XMM-Newton satellite shows a glowing debris field in X-rays. This is the remains of a massive star that exploded thousands of years before. Using NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory, researchers were able to focus their attention on a small, comet-shaped X-ray source outside the boundary of this supernova remnant. It appears that this object, thought to be a rapidly spinning, incredibly dense star - which astronomers call a "pulsar" -- was ejected during the supernova explosion. Researchers calculate that this pulsar may be dashing away from the supernova at speeds of about 6 million miles per hour. If this result is confirmed, it would make this pulsar the fastest ever seen.
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(NASA/CXC/A. Hobart)

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5. Tour of G350.1-0.3
QuicktimeMPEG G350.1+0.3 is a young and exceptionally bright supernova remnant located nearly 15,000 light years from Earth toward the center of the Milky Way. While many supernova remnants are nearly circular, G350.1+0.3 has a strikingly unusual appearance. X-rays from Chandra and infrared data from Spitzer outline this bizarre shape, which astronomers think comes from the stellar debris field expanding into a nearby cloud of cold gas. With an age of between 600 and 1,200 years old, G350.1+0.3 is in the same time frame as other famous supernovas that formed the Crab and SN 1006 supernova remnants. However, it is unlikely that anyone on Earth would have seen the explosion because too much gas and dust lies along our line of sight to the remnant, blocking the view.
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(NASA/CXC/A. Hobart)

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Click for high-resolution animation
6. Tour of the Crab
QuicktimeMPEG The Crab Nebula is one of the brightest sources of high-energy radiation in the sky. Little wonder - it's the expanding remains of an exploded star, a supernova seen in 1054. Scientists have used virtually every telescope at their disposal, including NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory, to study the Crab. The supernova left behind a magnetized neutron star - a pulsar. It's about the size of Washington DC, but it spins 30 times a second. Each rotation sweeps a lighthouse-like beam past us, creating a pulse of electromagnetic energy detectable across the spectrum.

Here's what the sky looks like in high-energy gamma rays. The pulsar in the Crab Nebula is among the brightest sources. Recently, NASA's Fermi Gamma Ray Observatory and Italy's AGILE Satellite detected strong gamma-ray flares from the Crab, including a series of "superflares" in April 2011. To help pinpoint the location of these flares, astronomers enlisted Chandra.

With its keen X-ray eyes, Chandra saw lots of activity, but none of it seems correlated with the superflare. This hints that whatever is causing the flares is happening with about a third of a light year from the pulsar. And rapid changes in the rise and fall of gamma rays imply that the emission region is very small, comparable in size to our Solar System.

The Chandra observations will likely help scientists to home in on an explanation of the gamma-ray flares one day. The Chandra data provide strong constraints on the behavior, at relatively low energies, of the particles that have been accelerated to produce the gamma-ray flares. Even after a thousand years, the heart of this shattered star still offers scientists glimpses of staggering energies and cutting edge science.
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(NASA/CXC/MSFC/M.Weisskopf et al & A.Hobart)

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7. Tour of PSR J0357+3205
QuicktimeMPEG A spinning neutron star is tied to a mysterious tail, or is it? Astronomers using NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory have found a long, X-ray bright tail streaming away from the pulsar known as PSR J0357. The tail appears to stretch for over 4 light years from behind the pulsar, which would make it the longest one ever seen trailing behind this type of pulsar. However, as is often the case in astronomy, things are not quite so simple. The amount of energy being lost from the pulsar doesn't seem to account for all of the material seen in the tail. Also, the brightest portion of the tail is not actually near the pulsar, which scientists would expect. So scientists plan on looking at PSR J0357 more in the future with Chandra and other telescopes, and hope that even more data will help them pin down what is happening in this intriguing object.
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(NASA/CXC/A. Hobart)

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Click for high-resolution animation
8. Chandra Motion Sequence of Crab Nebula
QuicktimeMPEG A new movie from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory shows a sequence of Chandra images of the Crab Nebula, taken over an interval of seven months. Dramatic variations are seen, including the expansion of a ring of X-ray emission around the pulsar (white dot near center) and changes in the knots within this ring. Chandra began observing the Crab on monthly intervals beginning six days after the discovery of the gamma-ray flare in September 2010. This established a baseline of seven images of the nebula before the superflare was seen just last month. When scientists saw that more flaring activity was beginning in April 2011, a pre-planned set of five Chandra observations was initiated. Two of these observations were made when strong gamma-ray flares occurred, but no clear evidence was seen for correlated flares in the Chandra images. The movie shows the April observations in "slow motion" to focus on the time when the gamma-ray superflares occurred. The movie shows three loops through the sequence of images, along with a timeline near the bottom.
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(NASA/CXC/MSFC/M.Weisskopf et al & A.Hobart)

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9. A Tour of GRS 1915+105
QuicktimeMPEG GRS 1915+105, or GRS 1915 for short, is a special system. Not only does it contain a black hole some 14 times more massive than the Sun in orbit with a companion star, it also has a heartbeat. Or, more exactly, it gives off X-ray pulses that resemble the pattern of a human heart, though on a much slower scale. By monitoring this system with NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and the Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer, astronomers were able to pick out a spike of X-rays every 50 seconds or so. Researchers have determined that this heartbeat is due to the ebb and flow of material as it circles the black hole. This result gives scientists more insight into how black holes regulate their intake and control their growth.
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(NASA/CXC/Harvard/J.Neilsen et al & A.Hobart)

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10. GRS 1915's "Heartbeat" X-ray Variation
QuicktimeMPEG The heartbeat variation of GRS 1915 is shown here in a repeated cycle to emphasize the similarity between the X-ray light curve and an electrocardiogram. The period has been sped up by a factor of 40.
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(NASA/CXC/Harvard/J.Neilsen et al)

Related Chandra Images:

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