A Hubble visible light image of the Crab Nebula inset against a full-sky gamma ray map showing the location of the nebula (crosshairs). NASA
Jan 07 2016 Posted: 08:00 GMT

The Centre for Astronomy at the School of Physics in NUI Galway are the lead researchers and authors of a recent international study published in January 2016 in one of the world’s leading primary research journals in astronomy and astrophysics, Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society (MNRAS ).

A joint Irish-French-US set of observations have led to a better understanding of the unexpected flaring activity seen coming from the Crab supernova remnant. The project led by Irish astronomer Professor Andrew Shearer from the Centre of Astronomy at NUI Galway, involved using the NUI Galway developed, Galway Astronomical Stokes Polarimeter (GASP ) polarimeter on the 200” Palomar telescope in California. Their work for the first time tied together changes in the optical polarisation with apparent changes in the gamma-ray (high energy x-ray ) polarisation.

A supernova remnant occurs when a star explodes and spews its innards out across the sky, creating an expanding wave of gas and dust known as a supernova remnant. Arguably, the most famous of these remnants is the Crab Nebula, which exploded in 1054. The Crab Nebula has been studied extensively over the last fifty years and recently found to be the source of gamma-ray and X-ray flares.

Professor Andrew Shearer from the School of Physics at the Centre of Astronomy in NUI Galway, said: “Our studies show how Galway’s GASP polarimeter will be important for future observations of these high energy astronomical sources. After the recent Government announcement that Ireland will join the European Southern Observatory (ESO ) we hope to contribute to future world class telescope projects such as the European Extremely Large Telescope.”

Further information is available here.

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School of Physics, NUI Galway

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