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Wide-Angle View of Vela Pulsar

In this wide-angle view, the Vela pulsar and its pulsar wind nebula are seen against a background of clouds, or filaments, of multi-million degree Celsius gas. These clouds are part of a huge sphere of hot expanding gas produced by the supernova explosion associated with the creation of the Vela pulsar about 10,000 years ago. As the ejecta from the explosion expanded into space and collided with the surrounding interstellar gas, shock waves were formed and heated the gas and ejecta to millions of degrees. The sphere of hot gas is about 100 light years across, 15 times larger than the region shown in this image, and is expanding at a speed of about 400,000 km/hr.

The Vela pulsar, located in the center of the image (yellow), is considered to be one of the most tantalizing images to date from the Chandra X-ray Observatory. It reveals a striking, almost unbelievable, structure consisting of bright rings and jets of matter. Such structures indicate that mighty ordering forces must be at work amidst the chaos of the aftermath of a supernova explosion. Forces can harness the energy of thousands of suns and transform that energy into a tornado of high-energy particles that astronomers refer to as a "pulsar wind nebula."

The supernova that produced the Vela pulsar and supernova remnant must have appeared extraordinarily bright on Earth, some 100 times brighter than Venus—easily visible in the daytime. Since no records of the event are known to exist, one can only imagine what Neolithic people must have thought of it.


This false-color x-ray image from the Chandra Observatory reveal details of this remnant pulsar's x-ray bright nebula along with emission from a spectacular jet of high-energy particles. In a time-lapse series of pictures, the jet seems to dance around very much like an out-of-control firehose, shooting along the pulsar's direction of motion (toward the top right corner) to a length of about half a light-year while whipping back and forth at about half the speed of light. Bright blobs are seen moving along the jet with surprising velocities—at about half of the speed of light. Highly magnetized and spinning over 10 times a second, the Vela pulsar is thought of as a cosmic high-voltage generator, powering the x-ray nebula and dynamic cosmic jet. A mere 800 light-years away the pulsar itself is located near the lower left corner.

Source1, Source2