In this wide-angle view, the Vela pulsar and its pulsar wind nebula are seen
against a background of clouds, or filaments, of multi-million degree Celsius
gas. These clouds are part of a huge sphere of hot expanding gas produced by
the supernova explosion associated with the creation of the Vela pulsar about
10,000 years ago. As the ejecta from the explosion expanded into space and
collided with the surrounding interstellar gas, shock waves were formed and
heated the gas and ejecta to millions of degrees. The sphere of hot gas is
about 100 light years across, 15 times larger than the region shown in this
image, and is expanding at a speed of about 400,000 km/hr.

The Vela pulsar, located in the center of the image (yellow), is considered
to be one of Chandra’s most tantalizing images to date. It reveals a striking,
almost unbelievable, structure consisting of bright rings and jets of matter.
Such structures indicate that mighty ordering forces must be at work amidst
the chaos of the aftermath of a supernova explosion. Forces that can harness
the energy of thousands of suns and transform that energy into a tornado of
high-energy particles astronomers refer to as a “pulsar wind nebula.”

The supernova that produced the Vela pulsar and supernova remnant must have
appeared extraordinarily bright on Earth, some 50 times brighter than Venus.
Since no records of the event are known to exist, one can only imagine what
Neolithic people must have thought of it.

Scale: Image is 30 arcmin per side


[NOTE: More images are available at]