Mysterious gamma rays in Crab nebula traced to pulsar winds

Ultra-bright flashes in the Crab nebula have baffled astronomers, but they could result from winds created by a pulsar at the heart of the gas cloud

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Waves of charged particles slamming into gas and dust may be responsible for unexpected super-bright flashes in the Crab nebula.

The Crab, located about 6500 light years away in the constellation Taurus, is the remains of a star that exploded as a supernova in 1054 AD. At its heart is a compact neutron star – an ultra-dense object the size of a city but with several times the mass of the sun.

That star is a pulsar, meaning its magnetic field generates intense beams that, as the star spins on its axis, shine in a similar way to the beam from a lighthouse. The Crab nebula is the most powerful pulsar known in the Milky Way.

Pulsars are some of the most regular objects in the cosmos; the Crab nebula’s spins around 33 times per second and produces steady electromagnetic radiation. This is why astronomers use them to

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