Astrophysics

Speedy Side-Kick

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Science  28 Feb 2014:
Vol. 343, Issue 6174, pp. 951
DOI: 10.1126/science.343.6174.951-c

It is accepted that pulsars moving at high velocities through their surroundings received a kick at their birth from a core-collapse supernova, but details of this process remain under study. The presence of jets had been observed for rotation-powered pulsars either moving subsonically or still embedded in their supernova remnant, but not for pulsars moving at supersonic speeds. Pavan et al. report on radio and x-ray observations of the supersonic pulsar IGR J11014-6103, in which they detect its wind nebula and a jet, whose nature is supported by a counterjet in the opposite direction. Pulsar jets are usually difficult to observe because the pulsar spin axis is typically aligned with the direction of motion, so that the jet is disrupted, or hidden by shocked material in the wind nebula. However, this pulsar is unusual in that its direction of motion, and thus its probable kick direction from the supernova explosion, lies nearly perpendicular to the observed jet. The authors identify the corkscrew-shaped jet as originating with the pulsar and as consistent with modulation by a precessing spin axis. These findings suggest that such jets may be common, and the evidence of an apparently misaligned velocity kick will enable improvements to the core-collapse supernova model.

Astron. Astrophys. 562, 10.1051/00046361/201322588 (2014).

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