Crab Nebula’s Strange Pulsar Heart Slowly Going Off-Kilter
For the first time, astronomers have tracked the evolution of a pulsar’s magnetic field over time, watching as it slowly tilts toward the dead star’s equator. The new observations of the pulsar, located in the Crab Nebula, could offer clues to the long-standing problem of what slows pulsars’ rotation.
“Most pulsars are millions or tens of millions of years old,” said Andrew Lyne, emeritus professor of physics at the University of Manchester in the U.K., who led the study, which appears in the Nov. 1 issue of the journal Science. “So we don’t expect to see significant changes. But we have been looking at this for a substantial portion of its lifetime, some 40 out of 1,000 years.” The supernova that birthed the pulsar in the Crab Nebula occurred in A.D. 1054. Chinese and Arab astronomers both noted it.
That is a truly stunning image.