Caught on Camera: Supernova Spits Out Pulsar

A remnant of a stellar explosion zips through space—and sends us signals as it goes

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NASA

An extraordinary jet trailing behind a runaway pulsar is seen in this composite image that contains X-ray data from Chandra (purple), radio data from the ACTA (green), and optical data from the 2MASS survey (red, green, and blue).

For a cosmic adrenaline rush, it’s hard to beat a supernova. It happens when a star detonates at the end of its life, blasting gases and other debris outward with unimaginable violence. The explosion is so powerful that for a few days at least, a single supernova can outshine an entire galaxy of 100 billion stars or more. And when the dust finally settles, so to speak, what’s left behind (depending on the original star) might be a neutron star—an object so dense that a teaspoon’s worth would weigh 10 million tons—or even a black hole.

Given all this, it’s not as if supernovas need something to make them even more exciting. But they’ve got it anyway: astronomers have long known that some neutron stars aren’t simply left in place when a supernova goes off; they’re shot into space at millions of miles per hour. The presumed cause is some asymmetry in the explosion, possibly caused by turbulence, which gives the stellar remnant a powerful kick.

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Now, observers using the Chandra X-ray Observatory have spotted a speeding, wobbling neutron star trailing a twisted, comet-like tail behind it—a tail that stretches across more than 200 trillion miles. It is, said Lucia Pavan, of the University of Geneva, in a press release, “almost ten times longer than the distance between the Sun and our nearest star.”

The neutron star, which bears the catchy name IGR J11014-6103, is a pulsar, a body whose magnetic field sends out a blip of radio noise once per revolution. The blips are so incredibly regular that when they were first detected, they were briefly known as “LGMs,” since there was at least a chance that they were signals from little green men—that is, aliens.

These radio blips normally come from a pulsar’s north and south poles, generated by particles accelerated to high speed by the pulsars’ intense magnetic fields, but for some reason the astronomers can’t explain, the jet of particles that creates the tail in this case is coming off at right angles to the poles. “This gives us clues,” said co-author Gerd Puehlhofer, of the University of Tubigen, also in a release, “that exotic physics can occur when some stars collapse.” Exactly what form that exotic physics takes is still unknown.

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The pulsar’s estimated speed, say the scientists is somewhere between 2.5 and 5 million m.p.h. (4 to 8 million k/h), and the blast that created it happened about 15,000 years ago. Astronomers can still see the expanding cloud of gas from the original explosion, in the southern-hemisphere constellation Carina.

Millions of years from now, the speeding pulsar will leave the Milky Way entirely, and since the phenomenon that produced it isn’t all that uncommon, there are presumably plenty of fast-moving pulsars already zipping through the empty spaces between the galaxies. There could even be black holes doing the same thing, since the forces that blast a neutron star into space would presumably affect a black hole the same way. The only difference is that a speeding black hole would be vastly harder for us to spot. This also means there are undoubtedly fast-moving black holes that haven’t yet left the Milky Way. Fortunately, the odds that a black hole is headed straight at us at millions of m.p.h. are vanishingly small.

They aren’t literally zero, though. So when astronomers tell us that our Sun won’t end its life as a supernova and become a black hole (it’s far too small), it’s not necessarily as reassuring as it sounds.

(MORE: A New Supernova Caught in the Act)

8 comments
dontbelieveit960
dontbelieveit960

This event happened 15,000 years ago?  Wow.  Guess that puts a little damper in the Bible.

zeustiak
zeustiak

Some scary scenarios of 25 million MPH blackholes/neutron stars.  Such an object would pass Pluto on day 1, and exit the other side of Pluto's orbit around day 15.  :


1. Object strikes earth.  We die before we even know anything is wrong.

2. Object zips by earth, capturing our planet in its gravity, and taking us out into the cold dark of empty space.

3. Object strikes Jupiter and radiates everyone on earth to death within 24 hours.

4. Object hits the Sun.  At least we die quicker than the Jupiter scenario.

5. Object snags a small asteroid, or maybe Mars,which radiates just enough to give everyone a slow radiation death.

6. Object passes through the solar system jacking up the orbits of every planet.  Maybe we fall into Jupiter or the Sun, or find a new orbit with Pluto.

7. Object flies through the solar system pulsing us with radiation until our environment is ruined or we all die.

8. Object and Sun become binary meaning if we are still alive, we have to stare at the terror for what little time our civilization has left to live(before being radiated by a stray asteroid collision with the object or stellar bleed-off from the Sun).

9. Object passes near enough to the solar system to see, but not near enough to directly kill us.  However, object drags millions of asteroids and planet sized debris in its gravitational wake that puts an end to us.

BabuG.Ranganathan
BabuG.Ranganathan

SCIENCE SHOWS THAT THE UNIVERSE CANNOT BE ETERNAL because it could not have sustained itself eternally due to the law of entropy (increasing net energy decay, even in an open system). Einstein showed that space, matter, and time all are physical and all had a beginning. Space even produces particles because it’s actually something, not nothing. Even time had a beginning! Time is not eternal.

The law of entropy doesn't allow the universe to be eternal. If the universe were eternal, everything, including time (which modern science has shown is as physical as mass and space), would have become totally entropied by now and the entire universe would have ended in a uniform heat death a long, long time ago. The fact that this hasn't happened already is powerful evidence for a beginning to the universe.

Popular atheistic scientist Stephen Hawking admits that the universe had a beginning and came from nothing but he believes that nothing became something by a natural process yet to be discovered. That's not rational thinking at all, and it also would be making the effect greater than its cause to say that nothing created something. The beginning had to be of supernatural origin because natural laws and processes do not have the ability to bring something into existence from nothing. What about the Higgs boson (the so-called “God Particle”)? The Higgs boson does not create mass from nothing, but rather it converts energy into mass. Einstein showed that all matter is some form of energy.

The supernatural cannot be proved by science but science points to a supernatural intelligence and power for the origin and order of the universe. Where did God come from? Obviously, unlike the universe, God’s nature doesn’t require a beginning.
 
EXPLAINING HOW AN AIRPLANE WORKS doesn't mean no one made the airplane. Explaining how life or the universe works doesn't mean there was no Maker behind them. Natural laws may explain how the order in the universe works and operates, but mere undirected natural laws cannot explain the origin of that order. Once you have a complete and living cell then the genetic code and biological machinery exist to direct the formation of more cells, but how could life or the cell have naturally originated when no directing code and mechanisms existed in nature? Read my Internet article: HOW FORENSIC SCIENCE REFUTES ATHEISM.

WHAT IS SCIENCE? Science simply is knowledge based on observation. No one observed the universe coming by chance or by design, by creation or by evolution. These are positions of faith. The issue is which faith the scientific evidence best supports.

Some things don’t need experiment or scientific proof. In law there is a dictum called prima facie evidence. It means “evidence that speaks for itself.” Of course, in the complexities of human society and relationships, prima facie may not always be what it seems.

An example of a true prima facie would be if you discovered an elaborate sand castle on the beach. You don’t have to experiment to know that it came by design and not by the chance forces of wind and water.

If you discovered a romantic letter or message written in the sand, you don’t have to experiment to know that it was by design and not because a stick randomly carried by wind put it there. You naturally assume that an intelligent and rational being was responsible.

I encourage all to read my popular Internet articles: NATURAL LIMITS TO EVOLUTION and HOW FORENSIC SCIENCE REFUTES ATHEISM

Visit my newest Internet site: THE SCIENCE SUPPORTING CREATION

Babu G. Ranganathan*
(B.A. Bible/Biology)

Author of popular Internet article, TRADITIONAL DOCTRINE OF HELL EVOLVED FROM GREEK ROOTS

*I have given successful lectures (with question and answer period afterwards) defending creation before evolutionist science faculty and students at various colleges and universities. I've been privileged to be recognized in the 24th edition of Marquis "Who's Who in The East" for my writings on religion and science.

TroyDTeske
TroyDTeske

@BabuG.Ranganathan  Given modern ideas like M theory and string theory, in which we are but part of a multiverse, please reexamine your statement that the universe is a closed system.   What happens to your assertions if that basic premise is false?

dontbelieveit960
dontbelieveit960

@BabuG.Ranganathan  

"*I have given successful lectures (with question and answer period afterwards) defending creation before evolutionist science faculty and students at various colleges and universities. "


Which colleges and universities?  Arguing against evolution at a religious school probably leads to successful lectures. That's like preaching creationism to a congregation.