Fermi Large Area Telescope observations of the fast-dimming Crab Nebula in 60–600 MeV (Yeung et al.)

Vol. 638
2. Astrophysical processes

Fermi Large Area Telescope observations of the fast-dimming Crab Nebula in 60–600 MeV

by Paul K. H. Yeung and Dieter Horns 2020, A&A, 638, A147

The supernova that exploded in 1054 gave rise to the following well-known nebula since the manufacturing of large telescopes: the Crab Nebula, which is the first object in the Messier’s list of nebulae. The Crab Nebula is also one of the brightest objects in the X-ray sky; it consists of a pulsar at its center and a powered wind nebula. The Crab is a very stable object in X-rays and it has been used by astronomers to calibrate instruments since the dawn of X-ray astronomy. At very high energies (60-600 MeV), the Crab is known to produce bright gamma-ray flares at a rate of ~1 per year. In this paper, Yeung and Horns report the discovery of fast dimming in the 60-600 MeV flux from the Crab, observed by the Fermi Large Area Telescope. Typically, the Crab weakens by a factor of ~5 in a timescale of a few days and remains faint for several weeks. This fast variability lends support to models which ascribe to the inner knot of the Crab Nebula (a spot at ~0.3 arcsec from the pulsar itself and visible in Hubble Space telescope images) from which very high energy emission is observed from the Crab, arising as synchrotron emission.