Image Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/Univ.Potsdam/L.Oskinova et al & ESA/XMM-Newton; Optical: AURA/NOAO/CTIO/Univ.Potsdam/L.Oskinova et al

Found approximately 180,000 light-years away from Earth in the obscure constellation of Tucana, this celestial scene lurks within the confines of the Small Magellanic Cloud (SMC)—a satellite galaxy of the Milky Way. It might not be as large or bright as the spectacular nebular region known as NGC 346 (even if you don't know it by name, it's one of those regions you've almost certainly seen before), it is rather unusual in form.

This image, a composite put together using data collected by the XMM-Newton Telescope and the Chandra X-Ray Observatory, reveals the existence of a pulsar—the dense remnant of a once-massive star that went supernova—in a section of the Small Magellanic Cloud. Objects of its caliber are not unusual in the slightest, but this particular object is one of the very first pulsars ever found within the SMC.

Also unusual is the fact that the pulsar, cataloged as SXP 1062, rotates extremely slowly—completing one revolution every 18 minutes (whereas, the vast majority of pulsars rotate at speeds that see them complete multiple rotations each second). One would expect such a pulsar to be somewhat old, yet the opposite appears to be true; researchers estimate that nebula surrounding the central star is between 10,000 and 40,000 years old (a drop in the bucket in cosmic terms). From NASA:

See a larger image here.


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