The Vela pulsar 'jet': A companion-punctured bubble of fallback material

Ralph A.M.J. Wijers, Steinn Sigurdsson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Markwardt & Ögelman used ROSAT to reveal a 12 by 45 arcmin2 structure in 1-keV X-rays around the Vela pulsar, which they interpret as a jet emanating from the pulsar. Here we present an alternative view of the nature of this feature, namely that it consists of material from very deep inside the exploding star, close to the mass cut between material that became part of the neutron star and material that was ejected. The initial radial velocity of the inner material was lower than the bulk velocity of the ejecta, and this formed a bubble of slow material that started expanding again owing to heating by the spindown energy of the young pulsar. The expansion is mainly in one direction, and to explain this we speculate that the presupernova system was a binary. The explosion caused the binary to unbind, and the former companion of the pulsar carved a lower density channel into the main ejecta. The resulting puncture of the edge of the bubble greatly facilitated expansion along its path relative to other directions. If this is the case, we can estimate the current speed of the former binary companion and from this reconstruct the presupernova binary orbit. It follows that the exploding star was a helium star and hence that the supernova was of Type Ib. Since the most likely binary companion is another neutron star, the evolution of the Vela remnant and its surroundings has been rather more complicated than the simple expansion of one supernova blast wave into unperturbed interstellar material.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)276-282
Number of pages7
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1997

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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