The polarisation of light emitted by a neutron star

This artist’s view shows how the light coming from the surface of a strongly magnetic neutron star (left) becomes linearly polarised as it travels through the vacuum of space close to the star on its way to the observer on Earth (right). The polarisation of the observed light in the extremely strong magnetic field suggests that the empty space around the neutron star is subject to a quantum effect known as vacuum birefringence, a prediction of quantum electrodynamics (QED). This effect was predicted in the 1930s but has not been observed before.

The magnetic and electric field directions of the light rays are shown by the red and blue lines. Model simulations by Roberto Taverna (University of Padua, Italy) and Denis Gonzalez Caniulef (UCL/MSSL, UK) show how these align along a preferred direction as the light passes through the region around the neutron star. As they become aligned the light becomes polarised, and this polarisation can be detected by sensitive instruments on Earth.

Autorska prava:

ESO/L. Calçada

O slici

Id:eso1641a
Tip:Ilustracija
Datum objavljivanja:30. novembar 2016. 12:00
Povezana saopštenja:eso1641
Veličina:6000 x 3534 px

O objektu

Tip:Milky Way : Star : Evolutionary Stage : Neutron Star
Kategorija:Stars

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