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‘Superflares’ in the Crab Nebula

Just over a week ago the Crab Nebula supernova erupted in an enormous flare far more powerful than any previously seen. NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope detected this, lasting for six days. It is still not entirely sure what happened, but scientists say that it may be caused by sudden rearrangements of the magnetic field near the neutron star. These rearrangements may be a physical process that taps into the energy created by the neutron star’s rapid spin. These changes can accelerate particles to near the speed of light. As these high speed electrons react with the magnetic field, they emit gamma rays. This may be an important discovery because we have only recently began realizing the true power and capability of the Crab Nebula. These interactions are said to produce electrons with energies 100 times greater than can be achieved in any particle accelerator on Earth. This makes them the highest-energy electrons known to be associated with any cosmic source. This may cause interest because scientists may want to learn how these powerful interactions occur so we may someday be able to create them ourselves. Overall, the discovery of these enormous flares in the Crab Nebula supernova is beneficial to our knowledge, and to science.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/05/110511165312.htm

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