Crab Pulsar vs. Vela Pulsar

What's the Difference?

The Crab Pulsar and Vela Pulsar are both neutron stars that emit pulses of radiation as they rotate rapidly. However, they have some key differences. The Crab Pulsar is located in the Crab Nebula, which is a remnant of a supernova explosion that was observed in 1054 AD. It is one of the most studied pulsars and is known for its high-energy emissions, including gamma-ray bursts. On the other hand, the Vela Pulsar is located in the Vela Supernova Remnant and is one of the brightest pulsars in the sky. It is also known for its regular pulses and has been used to study the effects of gravitational waves. Overall, both pulsars provide valuable insights into the nature of neutron stars and the processes that occur within them.


AttributeCrab PulsarVela Pulsar
Discovery Year19681968
Distance from Earth6,500 light-years1,200 light-years
Period33 milliseconds89 milliseconds
Spin-down Rate4.2 x 10^-13 s/s1.4 x 10^-13 s/s
Associated Supernova RemnantCrab NebulaVela Supernova Remnant

Further Detail


Crab Pulsar and Vela Pulsar are two of the most well-known pulsars in our galaxy. Pulsars are highly magnetized, rotating neutron stars that emit beams of electromagnetic radiation. They are formed from the remnants of massive stars that have exploded in supernova events. In this article, we will compare the attributes of Crab Pulsar and Vela Pulsar, highlighting their similarities and differences.

Discovery and Naming

Crab Pulsar, also known as PSR B0531+21, was the first pulsar to be identified, in 1968. It is located in the Crab Nebula, which is the remnant of a supernova that was observed in the year 1054. The pulsar gets its name from its location in the Crab Nebula. Vela Pulsar, on the other hand, was discovered in 1968 as well, in the Vela Supernova Remnant. It is also known as PSR B0833-45, named after its celestial coordinates.

Physical Characteristics

Crab Pulsar has a rotation period of 33 milliseconds, making it one of the fastest-spinning pulsars known. It has a magnetic field strength of around 4.1 x 10^12 gauss. The pulsar emits radiation across the electromagnetic spectrum, from radio waves to gamma rays. Vela Pulsar, on the other hand, has a rotation period of 89 milliseconds and a magnetic field strength of approximately 8.6 x 10^12 gauss. It is also a source of radiation spanning various wavelengths.

Energy Output

Crab Pulsar is known for its high-energy emissions, particularly in the X-ray and gamma-ray bands. It is one of the brightest X-ray sources in the sky. The pulsar's intense radiation is thought to be powered by its rapid rotation and strong magnetic field. Vela Pulsar, on the other hand, is also a strong X-ray emitter, but its energy output is not as high as that of the Crab Pulsar. Both pulsars are important sources for studying the physics of extreme environments.

Spin Down Rates

Crab Pulsar is known to have a relatively stable spin-down rate, with its rotation period increasing at a predictable rate over time. This makes it a valuable object for studying the effects of electromagnetic braking on neutron stars. Vela Pulsar, on the other hand, exhibits more irregularities in its spin-down behavior, with occasional glitches that cause sudden changes in its rotation period. These glitches are believed to be caused by interactions between the pulsar's superfluid interior and its solid crust.

Associated Nebulae

Crab Pulsar is located at the center of the Crab Nebula, a supernova remnant that is one of the most studied objects in astronomy. The nebula's glowing filaments are powered by the pulsar's energetic emissions. Vela Pulsar, on the other hand, resides in the Vela Supernova Remnant, which is a complex structure of gas and dust left behind by a supernova that occurred around 11,000 years ago. The pulsar's interaction with the surrounding material has shaped the appearance of the remnant.

Observational Significance

Both Crab Pulsar and Vela Pulsar have been instrumental in advancing our understanding of pulsar physics and the behavior of neutron stars. Their proximity to Earth and their strong emissions make them ideal targets for observational studies across multiple wavelengths. Scientists have used data from these pulsars to test theories of general relativity, study the dynamics of pulsar wind nebulae, and investigate the mechanisms of pulsar emission.


In conclusion, Crab Pulsar and Vela Pulsar are two fascinating objects in the cosmos that have provided valuable insights into the nature of pulsars and neutron stars. While they share some similarities in terms of their pulsar characteristics, such as their high-energy emissions and association with supernova remnants, they also exhibit distinct differences in their physical properties and spin-down behavior. Continued observations of these pulsars will undoubtedly lead to further discoveries and deepen our understanding of these enigmatic cosmic phenomena.

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