Thanks to new images from the Chandra X-ray observatory of NASA, astronomers now have better insight into the origins of the Jellyfish Nebula, including its age estimate.
Also known as IC 443, the Jellyfish Nebula is the remains of a supernova found 5,000 light years away from Earth. According to latest research, the age of this supernova remnant is at tens of thousands of years.
The new images captured by Chandra also showed that the explosion creating the nebula may have formed a strange object situated on its southern edge known as J0617, which appeared as a rapidly spinning neutron star or pulsar.
A neutron star is a dense stellar core composed of the gas and dust remnants of produced by a supernova explosion. The latest NASA-released imagery suggested the same explosion produced the pulsar J0617, a spinning neutron star creating a radiation beam.
The intricate filaments of the Jellyfish Nebula and a close-up of the region surrounding the ring-like J0617 structure are caught by the Chandra images combined with those from the Digitized Sky Survey, with details published in the Astrophysical Journal.
“The ring may show a region where a high speed wind of particles flowing away from the pulsar is slowing down abruptly,” NASA explained in an official release, citing that alternately, the ring surrounding the pulsar may also represent a shock wave similar to a sonic boom and found ahead of the pulsar wind.
J0617’s X-ray spectrum was seen consistent with those of other pulsars, and the stellar wind patterns were the same as how astronomers envisioned them to be.
If the pulsar was indeed left by the supernova spawning the Jellyfish Nebula, further studies could provide new clues into the nebula’s origin. However, the riddle of the nebula age remained, with evidence pointing to tens of thousands of years of existence, as consistent with an earlier estimate of around 30,000 years.
Other scientists, however, had referenced a much younger age, which could be as low as about 3,000 years.