New Imagery Hints At Origins Of Jellyfish Nebula

Origins Of Jellyfish Nebula
New imagery combines X-ray data with optical light to paint a fuller, more detailed portrait of the Jellyfish Nebula. Photo by NASA/Chandra

BOSTON, Dec. 11 (UPI) — Astronomers now have a better understanding of the history and evolution of the Jellyfish Nebula, thanks to images newly captured by NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory.

The Jellyfish Nebula, officially IC 443, is made up of the gas and dust leftover from a violent supernova explosion. The latest imagery suggests the same explosion created a neuron star or pulsar called CXOU J061705.3+222127, J0617 for short, at the southern edge of the remnant.

A neutron star is the dense stellar core leftover after a massive star implodes. Upon implosion, most of the star’s materials ricochet back into space in a fiery mess. Often, the dense core spins rapidly, shooting out pulses of X-rays, radio waves or other types of radiation.

The new Chandra observations, combined with imagery from the Digitized Sky Survey, offer an especially detailed look of both the complex filaments of IC 443 and the intimate, ring-like structure of J0617.

The imagery — detailed in the Astrophysical Journal — also reveals the pulses of radiation stretching out along the vertical axis of the spinning neutron star. Waves of high-energy particles blown by stellar winds can be seen abutting neighboring portions of the nebula.

The X-ray signature of J0617 is consistent with those observed near other pulsars, and the patterns of stellar winds blowing from the pulsar look as astronomers expect.

If J0617 is indeed the stellar core leftover by the supernova that spawned IC 443, additional observations may offer new clues as to the origins of the Jellyfish Nebula.

But none of the new imagery has helped solve the riddle of the nebula’s age.

“This latest research points to an estimate for the age of the supernova remnant to be tens of thousands of years,” researchers wrote in a press release.

“This agrees with previous work that pegged IC 443’s age to be about 30,000 years,” they continued. “However, other scientists have inferred much younger ages of about 3,000 years for this supernova remnant, so its true age remains in question.”


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