Integral locates origin of high-energy emission from Crab Nebula
Thanks to data from ESA’s
Integral gamma-ray observatory, scientists have been able to
locate where particles in the vicinity of the rotating
neutron-star in the Crab Nebula are accelerated to immense
Rotating neutron-stars, or pulsars, are known to accelerate particles to enormous energies, typically one hundred times more than the most powerful accelerators on Earth, but scientists are still uncertain exactly how these systems work and where the particles are accelerated.
forward in this understanding is now accomplished thanks to a
team of researchers from the UK and Italy, led by Professor Tony
Dean of the University of Southampton, who studied high-energy
polarized light emitted by the Crab Nebula – one of the
most dramatic sights in deep space.
So, the Crab is known to accelerate electrons - and possibly other particles - to extremely high speed, and so produces high energy radiation. But where exactly are these particles accelerated?
into the heart of the pulsar with Integral’s spectrometer
(SPI), the researchers made a detailed study to assess the
polarization – or the alignment - of the waves of
high-energy radiation originating from the Crab.
Professor Tony Dean of the University’s School of Physics and Astronomy commented that the discovery of such alignment – also matching with the polarization observed in the visible band - is truly remarkable. “The findings have clear implications on many aspects of high energy accelerators such as the Crab,” he added.
"The detection of polarized radiation in space is very complicated and rare, as it requires dedicated instrumentation and an in-depth analysis of very complex data”, said Chris Winkler, Integral Project Scientist at ESA. “Integral’s ability to detect polarized gamma-radiation and, as a consequence, to obtain important results like this one, confirms it once more as a world-class observatory.”
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