The Jellyfish Nebula, also known by its official name IC 443, is the remnant of a supernova lying 5,000 light years from Earth. New Chandra observations show that the explosion that created the Jellyfish Nebula may have also formed a peculiar object located on the southern edge of the remnant, called CXOU J061705.3+222127, or J0617 for short. The object is likely a rapidly spinning neutron star, or pulsar.
When a massive star runs out of thermonuclear fuel, it implodes, forming a dense stellar core called a neutron star. The outer layers of the star collapse toward the neutron star then bounce outward in a supernova explosion. A spinning neutron star that produces a beam of radiation is called a pulsar. The radiation sweeps by like a beacon of light from a lighthouse and can be detected as pulses of radio waves and other types of radiation.
This new composite image includes a wide-field view from an amateur astrophotographer that shows the spectacular filamentary structure of IC 443. Within the inset box, another optical image from the Digitized Sky Survey (red, green, orange, and cyan) has been combined with X-ray data from Chandra (blue). The inset shows a close-up view of the region around J0617.
The Chandra image reveals a small, circular structure (or ring) surrounding the pulsar and a jet-like feature pointing roughly in an up-down direction that passes through the pulsar. It is unclear if the long, pink wisp of optical emission is related to the pulsar, as similar wisps found in IC 443 are unrelated to X-ray features from the pulsar. The ring may show a region where a high speed wind of particles flowing away from the pulsar, is slowing down abruptly. Alternately, the ring may represent a shock wave, similar to a sonic boom, ahead of the pulsar wind. The jet could be particles that are being fired away from the pulsar in a narrow beam at high speed.
More information at http://chandra.si.edu/photo/2015/ic443/index.html
-Megan Watzke, CXC