Cambridge, Mass. (KXAN) — “One of the fastest objects of its kind ever seen” has been spotted moving through the Milky Way galaxy. A young pulsar was first witnessed speeding by researchers using NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory.
They believe it is moving at least 1.4 million miles per hour from the center of the supernova that formed it. That is about twenty times faster than the Earth orbits the Sun.
Pulsars are created when a star runs out of fuel, collapses, explodes and dies. That explosion launches the remains of the star, which then spin rapidly, into space. The supernova, nicknamed G292.0+1.8, is about 20,000 lightyears from Earth.
The pulsar was spotted using the Chandra because of its ability to spot X-rays, according to Xi Long of the Center for Astrophysics at Harvard & the Smithsonian.
Long led the team that conducted the study. They compared pictures taken of the supernova from 2006 to 2016, tracking the pulsar as it flew through space.
According to the researchers, the newly determined speed means that the pulsar and supernova are younger than originally thought.
It was assumed that they were 3,000 years old, but new estimates place the supernova at around 2,000 years old.
The team also studied how the supernova propelled the pulsar into space. The pulsar is 10 miles across, but 500,000 times denser than Earth.
The Chandra X-ray Observatory is designed to detect X-rays in deep space, specifically in parts of the universe with exploded stars. The Observatory is operated at the Smithsonian’s Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, MA. It first went into operations in 1999.