Pulsar extended IR glow simulations

These views were created to accompany press releases for Dr. Bettina Posselt, et al., on the detection of infrared emission surrounding the neutron star (pulsar) RX J0806.4-4123; e.g., https://www.nasa.gov/feature/goddard/2018/hubble-uncovers-never-before-seen-features-around-a-neutron-star

Naturally I employed a healthy amount of artistic license on the depictions — for scale, brightness, color variations, simulation speed (in the movie versions, below), and so on. Dr. Posselt and collaborators described several potential scenarios to explain the source of infrared radiation:
1) heating/excitation of nearby interstellar gas as the pulsar moves through space — hence, the kind of “bow shock / bullet shape” to the cloudy material;
2) an extended disk around the neutron star, with a kind of amplified low-angle glint in our direction;
3) a small inner disk with an extended halo of smaller, reflective “Kuiper Belt”- or “Oort Cloud”-analogue bodies.

I modeled these systems in the “Unity” 3-D game engine. Short, looping movies of the simulations running can be found here:

Published by

Nahks Tr'Ehnl

Combining life-long passions for astronomy and visual arts, Nahks is a multimedia specialist for the Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics at The Pennsylvania State University. His primary interests are astrobiology and human space exploration, and he aims to share those through science communication — art, writing, education & public outreach, ... and most recently, video games. Nahks trains in Kokikai-ryu Aikido with the Penn State Aikido Club and studies Urasenke-style Japanese tea ceremony through the Penn State Tea Institute. He also practices a bit of classic East-Asian inkbrush painting and calligraphy, among other medieval-recreation activities related to being a member of the Society for Creative Anachronism. He's kind of a sci-fi/fantasy geek in general, who's also into a lot of tabletop and computer gaming.

This artwork is copyright © Nahks Tr'Ehnl. All rights reserved.