Crab pulsar beams most energetic gamma rays ever detected from a pulsar

The Crab Nebula in the constellation of Taurus

On October 5, 2011, an international collaboration of astrophysicists announced that they had detected pulsed gamma ray emission from the Crab pulsar having the same period as the Crab pulsar.  Using the VERITAS Cherenkov telescope array in Arizona, they detected gamma ray energies in the range of 100 – 400 billion electron volts, higher than anything previously observed from a pulsar and so energetic that current pulsar cosmic ray acceleration models fail to explain it.

Earlier this year, astronomers announced that they had detected a gamma ray flare from the Crab Nebula that was produced by cosmic ray electrons having energies of up to 10 quadrillion electron volts.  See story at:  This is 100,000 times greater than the gamma ray energies observed to come from the Crab pulsar.  A conservative estimate would place the particle energies involved in producing the Crab Nebula flare as being several orders of magnitude higher than the particle energies inferred from the pulsar’s gamma emission.  So as concluded earlier, it is unlikely that the Crab pulsar is responsible for the Crab Nebula’s gamma emission.

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