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Thursday, January 6, 2011

Fermi's Large Area Telescope sees surprising activity in Crab Nebula's neutron star

Fermi's Large Area Telescope sees surprising flares in Crab Nebula

January 6, 2011 -->Fermi's Large Area Telescope sees surprising flares in crab nebula

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Fermi's Large Area Telescope has recently detected two short-duration gamma-ray pulses coming from the Crab Nebula, which was previously believed to emit radiation at very steady rate. The pulses were fueled by the most energetic particles ever traced to a discrete astronomical object. Image courtesy of NASA/ESA.

(PhysOrg.com) -- The Crab Nebula, one of our best-known and most stable neighbors in the winter sky, is shocking scientists with a propensity for fireworks: gamma-ray flares set off by the most energetic particles ever traced to a specific astronomical object. The discovery, reported today by scientists working with two orbiting telescopes, is leading researchers to rethink their ideas of how cosmic particles are accelerated.

"We were dumbfounded," said Roger Blandford, who directs the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology, jointly located at the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Stanford University. "It's an emblematic object," he said; also known as M1, the Crab Nebula was the first astronomical object catalogued in 1771 by Charles Messier. "It's a big deal historically, and we're making an amazing discovery about it."

Posted via email from Fred's posterous