A Tour of Vela Pulsar

Narrator (April Hobart, CXC): Unlike with some Hollywood films, a sequel of a movie from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory is better than the first. The star of this Chandra movie is the Vela pulsar, a neutron star that was formed when a massive star collapsed. The Vela pulsar is about 1,000 light years from Earth, spans about 12 miles in diameter, and makes a complete rotation in 89 milliseconds, which is faster than a helicopter rotor. As the pulsar whips around, it spews out a jet of charged particles that race out along the pulsar’s rotation axis at about 70% the speed of light. The new Chandra data, which were obtained from June to September 2010, suggest that the jet may be slowly wobbling, or precessing, as it spins. The first Chandra movie of Vela came out in 2003, but its shorter and unevenly spaced exposures did not provide clear evidence for precession of the pulsar. If the Vela saga becomes a trilogy, maybe more secrets of this exotic object will be revealed.