‘Jaw-Dropping!’ Crab Nebula’s Powerful Beams Shock Astronomers
An artist’s conception of the pulsar at the center of the Crab Nebula, with a Hubble Space Telescope photo of the nebula in the background. Researchers using the VERITAS telescope array have discovered pulses of high-energy gamma rays coming from this object.
Image Credit: David A. Aguilar / NASA / ESA
When astronomers detected intense radiation pumping out of the Crab Nebula, one of the most studied objects in space, at higher energies than anyone thought possible, they were nothing short of stunned.
The inexplicably powerful gamma-rays came from the very heart of the Crab Nebula, where an extreme object called a pulsar resides.
“It was totally not expected — it was absolutely jaw-dropping,” Andrew McCann, a Ph.D. candidate at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, and a co-author of the new study, told SPACE.com. “This is one of the hottest targets in the sky, so people have been looking at the Crab Nebula for a long time. Now there’s a twist in the tale. High-energy rays coming from the nebula are well-known, but coming from the pulsar is something nobody expected.”