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Unstrange Phenomena

02 December 2009

Check Out Cosmic Generator Producing Energy at Rate of 100K Suns



Photo from NASA

From Denny: We all remember that exploding supernova we saw on Earth a while ago and it sure was spectacular. Well, OK, maybe you and I - and about a million other ancestors - were not there to witness it in person.

When something dies in the universe it usually has a spectacular Hollywood styled funeral show production. There was such a showy production in the constellation Taurus back in 1054 A.D. of a supernova.

Why is this almost thousand year old cosmic funeral show so important today? Turns out an actor left behind from the showy production is speaking up and yelling into the universe. Its a super dense object otherwise known as a neutron star.

This neutron star is quite the chip off the old block and is a real show-off. To get our attention this star is spewing out a magnificent blizzard of high energy particles and expanding the debris field. Since Earthlings just have to name everything - a family tradition handed down from our ancient ancestor Adam of the duo commonly known as "Adam and Eve" - we settled on the name of the Crab Nebula.

This honking huge Crab Nebula ranks as a cosmic icon because it is one of the most studied objects in our sky. The above photo is really a composite of X-ray, optical and infrared images from three of NASA's Great Observatories.

Why is the Chandra X-ray image in blue so small? Mainly because the little gremlins, AKA energizer bunny electrons, that send out the X-rays also are the track stars of the energy kingdom. They move far faster than their slower electron cousins sending out optical and infrared light and so the energy dissipates quicker.

The other colors in the photo are from the Hubble Space Telescope whose optical images are shown in yellow and red. The Spitzer Space Telescope infrared image is depicted in purple.

This showy Crab Nebula is pumping out the energy of 100,000 suns, so colossal that it boggles the mind. What we all could do with that energy here on Earth if we could figure out a way to tap into this powerful cosmic generator. Any ideas?

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