Getting the Upper Hand on Understanding Neutron Stars

PSR B1509-58

When we released Chandra’s image of the pulsar known as PSR B1509-58 (or, B1509, for short), it received a lot of attention. It's a fascinating object. The pulsar at the center of the image is a rapidly spinning dense star that is spewing out energetic particles into beautiful structures spanning trillions of miles that glow in X-ray light. And, it looks like a giant hand. This fact helped trigger a whole host of other comments about this object found some 17,000 light years from Earth.

This month, scientists announced that they've been studying B1509 for reasons that have nothing to do with its hand-shaped appearance. Rather, they are trying to figure out how such a tiny object (the 12-mile-wide pulsar) can be so powerful. Researchers at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico put out a press release that talks about this fascinating work.

In short, neutron stars like the one found in B1509 give scientists an opportunity to study forces in nature so extreme that they are impossible to recreate here on Earth.

This is an exciting and important example of how science in space can help research here on the ground, and vice versa. That's just the hand we've been dealt in our Universe (ba-da-dum).

-Megan Watzke, CXC

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