A young pulsar was burning on the Milky Way at more than a million miles an hour. This astronomical speed, proven by NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, is one of the fastest of its kind ever. This fantastic result teaches astronomers more about how some big stars end their lives.
The Pulsars quickly turn into neutron stars that form when other giant stars run out of fuel, collapse, and explode. This pulsar runs among the remnants of a supernova explosion called G292.0 + 1.8, located about 20,000 light-years from Earth.
“We directly saw the pulsar movement on X-rays, something we could only do with Chandra’s very sharp vision,” said Xi Long of the Center for Astrophysics. “Because it’s so far away, we had to measure a quarter’s width of about 15 miles to see this movement.”
To make this discovery, researchers compared Chandra’s G292.0 + 1.8 images taken in 2006 and 2016. Since the change in pulsar position over ten years, they calculate that it travels at least 1.4 million miles an hour from the supernova residue on the lower left. This speed is about 30% higher than the previous pulsar speed measurement based on the indirect route, measuring how far the pulsar is from the blast area.
The recently determined pulsar speed indicates that the G292.0 + 1.8 and its pulsar may be significantly smaller than previously thought by astronomers. Xi and his team estimated that G292.0 + 1.8 would have exploded nearly 2,000 years ago as it appeared on Earth, more than 3,000 years ago as previously calculated. Several civilizations worldwide recorded the supernova explosion at that time, opening the way for the G292.0 + 1.8 to be seen directly.
“We have a handful of supernova explosions that also have a reliable record of it,” said co-author Daniel Patnaude, also of CfA, “so we wanted to see if the G292.0 + 1.8 could be added to the team.”
However, G292.0 + 1.8 is below the horizon in many Northern Hemisphere civilizations that they may have seen, and there are no recorded examples of the supernova witnessed in the Northern Hemisphere around G292.0 + 1.8.
In addition to learning more about the G292.0 + 1.8 years, researchers also tested how the supernova gave the pulsar its robust kick. There are two significant possibilities, both of which include things not supplied by the supernova equally on all sides. One possibility is that the neutrino produced in the explosion is released asymmetrically, and the other is that the debris from the blast is removed equally. If the property has a preferred method, the pulsar will be kicked in the opposite direction due to a system of physics called energy conservation.