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article imageVela pulsar 'looks like God smoking a joint'

By Greta McClain     Jan 9, 2013 in Science
A video released by NASA have observers trying to describe a Vela pulsar, with some comparing it to "Phantom of the Opera", while others see a more "heavenly" image.
In a video released on Monday by NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory, a Vela pulsar approximately 12 miles in diameter can be seen. The pulsar, which is located about 1,000 light-years from the Earth, maintains an extremely rapid, although wobbly, rotation. Its 89 millisecond rotation is faster than that of a helicopter rotor, allowing it make 11 complete rotations every second.
A pulsar is a rapidly rotating neutron star that emits large amounts of electromagnetic radiation and particle jets. The jets emitted by the pulsar travel at approximately 70 percent the speed of light. A Vela pulsar is simply a pulsar found in the Vela constellation.
This is the second time the Vela pulsar has been captured by Chandra. In 2003, the pulsar was filmed and scientists agreed that precession, a change in the orientation of the rotational axis, was occurring. Monday's video lead researches to the same conclusion, with University of Toronto astrophysicist Martin Durant saying:
"We think the Vela pulsar is like a rotating garden sprinkler -- except with the water blasting out at over half the speed of light."
In a press release, George Washington University researcher Oleg Kargaltsev stated:
"The deviation from a perfect sphere may only be equivalent to about one part in 100 million. Neutron stars are so dense that even a tiny distortion like this would have a big effect."
The data obtained for this latest video was gathered between June and September of 2010. Eight images are pieced together to make create the video, with each image visibly showing a distinct wobble as the pulsar rotates.
While most scientists are more interested in what can be learned from the pulsar, novice observers appear to be more interested in the image the pulsar presents. NASA left the image's interpretation up to the viewer when it said:
"The shape and the motion of the Vela jet look strikingly like a ..."
Nancy Atkinson, an author with Universe Today, describes the Vela pulsar as a cross between the "Phantom of the Opera" and the Tin Man from the "Wizard of Oz", saying:
"{The} pulsar has the unnerving appearance of the Phantom of the Opera – wearing not only a mask, but also a steam-blowing hat like the Tin Man in “The Wizard of Oz.”
The Raw Story’s David Ferguson may have the most unique interpretation however, seeing a much different image than Atkinson. According to Ferguson, the image
“looks more like God smoking a joint.”
More about NASA, Neutron Star, Chandra Xray Observatory, Chandra Observatory, Video