UNITED STATES: The magnetic fields of the Crab Nebula have been mapped in great detail by NASA’s Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE) spacecraft. The Crab Pulsar, a dense, city-sized particle, was left behind by the supernova explosion that gave rise to the well-known Crab Nebula in 1054. The diffuse gas clouds that surround the pulsar, which is 6,500 light-years from Earth, have an electromagnetic field that resembles a torus.
The new map, which reveals the complex and chaotic environment of the Crab Nebula, was created using observations made by the IXPE instrument. The measurements show that the magnetic field of the Crab Nebula is similar to the magnetic field of the Vela Pulsar Wind Nebula, which is also shaped like a torus. But scientists were surprised to find that the areas of turbulence in the Crab Nebula’s magnetic field were more patchy and asymmetrical than they had thought.
Gases, dust, shock waves, magnetic fields, bright light, and high-energy particles pouring from the pulsar’s fast-spinning core make up the tumultuous stuff that surrounds it. This area, referred to as a pulsar wind nebula, is still one of the most mysterious parts of the cosmos that researchers are still trying to completely comprehend.
The IXPE satellite’s measurements provide a window into this complex and chaotic environment. Almost all of the large instruments and observatories have focused on studying the Crab Nebula, but only IXPE has the necessary capabilities to measure the polarization of the X-rays emanating from the object.
The lead author of the study, Niccol Bucciantini, said that this is a clear sign that even the more complicated models made in the past with the help of advanced numerical techniques do not fully show how complicated this object is. The research results were released in Nature Astronomy.
In the end, NASA’s IXPE instrument’s very detailed map of the magnetic fields in the Crab Nebula gives us a better idea of the complex and chaotic environment around the Crab pulsar. While significant progress has been made in understanding this region, the measurements made by IXPE reveal that there is still much to be learned about the Crab Nebula and its pulsar wind nebula.
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