NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope managed to take pictures of the Crab Nebula’s core, a neutron star 6,500 light-years away, pulsating 30 times per second. Chinese astronomers sighted the supernova that gave origin to the Crab Nebula in the year 1054.
It is located in the constellation known as Taurus, and its center is 1.4 times more massive the sun, but it is the size of a large city. The original supernova was also recorded by Arabic and Native American astronomers, but it was not until 1928 that Edwin Hubble himself associated the Crab Nebula to the star witnessed by the Chinese in 1054.
A neutron heart
Neutron stars are the densest in the universe, and they are known to form due to the gravitational collapse of a supernova. As the name implies, neutron stars are comprised of neutrons, subatomic particles without electrical charge and greater mass than most subatomic particles. The surface temperature of most neutron stars is known to reach at least 600,000 degrees Celsius.
Neutron stars are so massive and dense that a teaspoon of a neutron star would weigh a billion tons. It is also worth noting that a neutron star’s gravitational pull is so strong that it can bend interstellar radiation, allowing scientists to obtain measurements coming from the backside of stars and planets.
What is interesting about neutron stars is that they emit pulsars, which allowed scientists to confirm the existence of neutron stars altogether. Pulsars are regular in their emissions, which allow astronomers to make very precise measurements due to their pulsating character. The neutron star in the Crab Nebula pulsates precisely 30.2 times per second, emitting gamma rays up all the way to radio waves, it was one of the first pulsars ever to be discovered.
The Crab Pulsar is about 30 kilometers wide, and its existence is widely regarded as significant because pulsars are unique celestial bodies. This is because most objects in space take years to evolve, which forces measurement to take extended periods. But pulsars change in a matter of milliseconds. In fact, the Crab Nebula can show significant variations with just a few days between observations.
The photos taken by the NASA Hubble Space Telescope are in the dead center of the region surrounding the neutron star. It displays the nearby wisps of gas and debris, floating along a blue cloud of radiation that is produced by electrons, spinning at the speed of light, thus forming intense magnetic fields in the nebula’s nucleus.
Auroras greet Juno probe as it approaches Jupiter
The Hubble Telescope also made a fascinating discovery in Jupiter, as NASA’s Juno probe is nearing the gaseous giant. New pictures show a light spectacle on Jupiter’s north pole. It was also registered by Juno as vivid auroras, which occur when particles enter a planet’s atmosphere surrounding one of its magnetic poles, then colliding with gas atoms. These auroras also occur on earth’s poles, under the name aurora borealis. Jupiter’s auroras show how the planet’s atmosphere reacts to solar wind and radiation.
These auroras are much more energetic than those native to Earth, and it seems that the ones on Jupiter do not stop whatsoever, as earth’s auroras are mostly due to solar storms.
The Hubble Telescope has been observing Jupiter almost on a daily basis, mostly due to NASA’s Juno mission approaching one of its critical stages.
“These auroras are very dramatic and among the most active I have ever seen. It almost seems as if Jupiter is throwing a firework party for the imminent arrival of Juno,” Jonathan Nichols, one of the primary researchers involved in the Hubble imaging of Jupiter’s auroras, said to NASA
The auroras are the brightest in the solar system, mainly due to Jupiter’s intense magnetic environment. The Juno probe will pick up a sample of the charged particles and magnetic fields surrounding Jupiter’s poles. The joined work of Juno and the Hubble Space Telescope will surely provide more information than expected.
The Juno mission is supposed to obtain an accurate measurement of the water content in Jupiter’s atmosphere, which will provide important clues regarding several planet formation theories. It will also get information about how the world’s climate changes, including variations in composition and temperature, like Jupiter, has one of the most violent atmospheres of all the planets in the solar system. Juno will also study the red giant’s magnetosphere, focusing on the planet’s poles and its auroras.
Jupiter is an important planet to study because scientists believe that it may have formed before the sun. Discovering the amount of water present in its atmosphere will reveal whether the planet was born in the solar system, or if it was pulled from a distance towards the sun after being formed. Juno is also expected to discover if the planet indeed has a solid core.
Jupiter is mostly formed out of helium and hydrogen, which leads planetary astronomers to believe that it is ancient because those are also the same primary components of the sun. Most planets are formed due to the collapse of a nebula, but until Juno’s arrival, there are still more clues to be found to either validate or refute the current theories.