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Geminga as seen by Chandra and Spitzer
Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/PSU/B. Posselt et al; Infrared: NASA/JPLCaltech
Observation data
Epoch J2000.0      Equinox J2000.0
Constellation Gemini
Right ascension 06h 33m 54.15s
Declination +17° 46′ 12.9″
Apparent magnitude (V) 25.5
Evolutionary stage Pulsar
Distance815 ly
[1] pc)
Age342,000 years
Other designations
SN 437, PSR B0633+17, PSR J0633+1746
Database references

Geminga /ɡəˈmɪŋɡə/ is a gamma ray and x-ray pulsar source thought to be a neutron star approximately 250 parsecs[1] (around 800 light-years) from the Sun in the constellation Gemini.

Its name, attributed by its discoverer Giovanni Bignami, is both a contraction of Gemini gamma-ray source, and a transcription of the words ghè minga (pronounced [ɡɛ ˈmĩːɡa]), meaning "it's not there" in the Milanese dialect of Lombard.[2] The name was approved by the International Astronomic Union on 4 April 2022.[3]


left: Geminga, IC 443 and the Crab Nebula. right: The halo around the pulsar Geminga seen by Fermi after removing bright sources

The nature of Geminga was quite unknown for 20 years after its discovery by NASA's Second Small Astronomy Satellite (SAS-2). Finally, in March 1991 the ROSAT satellite detected a periodicity of 0.237 seconds in soft x-ray emission. Thus, it is supposed that Geminga is a sort of neutron star: the degenerate core of a massive star that exploded as a supernova about 300,000 years ago.[4]

It was once thought that this nearby explosion was responsible for the low density of the interstellar medium in the immediate vicinity of the Solar System. This low-density area is known as the Local Bubble.[5] Possible evidence for this includes findings by the Arecibo Observatory that local micrometre-sized interstellar meteor particles appear to originate from its direction.[6] More recently, however, it has been suggested that multiple supernovae in subgroup B1 of the Pleiades moving group were more likely responsible,[7] becoming a remnant supershell.[8]

A study from 2019, using data from NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope discovered a large gamma-ray halo around Geminga. Accelerated electrons and positrons collide with nearby starlight. The collision boosts the light up to much higher energies. Geminga alone could be responsible for as much as 20% of the high-energy positrons seen by the AMS-02 experiment. Previous studies using data from the High-Altitude Water Cherenkov Gamma-ray Observatory found only a small gamma-ray halo around Geminga at higher energies.[9][10]

Discovery and identification[edit]

Position of Geminga in the Milky Way gamma-ray sky. Credit: NASA/DOE/International LAT Team

Geminga was the first example of an unidentified gamma-ray source, a source which could not be associated with any objects known at other wavelengths. It was first detected as a significant excess of gamma rays over the expected background of diffuse Galactic emission, by the SAS-2 satellite (Fichtel et al. 1975) and subsequently by the COS-B satellite. The SAS-2 group reported a pulsation in the gamma-ray signal, with period approximately 59 s, although the limited number of detected gamma rays (121 over a period of four months) led them to conclude that the pulsation was not statistically compelling. Due to the limited angular resolution of the instrument (approximately 2.5° at 100MeV) and the small number of gamma rays detected, the exact location of the source was uncertain, constrained only to be within a relatively large "error region". At the time of detection, four weak radio sources were known within this region, two supernova remnants bordered it and a known satellite galaxy to the Milky Way lay nearby. None of these known sources were convincing associations to the gamma-ray source, and the SAS-2 team suggested that an undiscovered radio-pulsar was the most likely progenitor.[11]

Despite the investment of a significant amount of observation time, the source remained unidentified through the COS-B era; their data did, however, rule out the claimed 59 s pulsation. Many claims were made about the source during this time, but its nature remained a mystery until the identification of a candidate source by the Einstein x-ray satellite, 1E 0630+178.[2] The characteristics of the x-ray source were unique: large x-ray to optical luminosity, no radio emission detected by the sensitive VLA instrument, point-like emission in the Einstein imager and an estimated distance of approximately 100 pc, placing it within the Galaxy. An association between the gamma-ray and x-ray sources was not conclusively made until the ROSAT x-ray imager detected a 237 ms pulsation,[12] which was also seen in gamma rays by the EGRET instrument[13] and retrospectively in the COS-B and SAS-2 data.[14][15] Geminga thus appeared to be the first example of a radio-quiet pulsar, and served as an illustration of the difficulty of associating gamma-ray emission with objects known at other wavelengths: some characteristic of the gamma-ray source, such as periodicity or variability, must be identified in candidate counterparts at other wavelengths in order to make the connection of their identity.

Finally, this principle held true when radio emissions of matching 237 ms periodicity were found at previously unsurveyed frequencies of 100 MHz and below.[16]

Proper motion[edit]

The proper motion of Geminga is 178.2 mas/year which corresponds (at a distance of 250 pc) to a projected velocity of 205 kilometres per second.[1] This velocity is very fast for a star, comparable to Barnard's Star.

Timing measurements[edit]

Geminga underwent a minor glitch in the late part of 1996, with a fractional change in frequency of 6.2 × 10−10.[17]

A 1998 study of the pre-glitch ephemeris suggested that the timings were being affected by reflex motion due to the presence of a low-mass planet in a 5.1-year orbit;[18] however, this was later shown to be an artifact of noise that affects the pulse times from Geminga rather than a genuine orbital effect.[17]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Faherty, J.; Walter, F. M.; Anderson, J. (2007). "The trigonometric parallax of the neutron star Geminga". Astrophysics and Space Science. 308 (1–4): 225–230. Bibcode:2007Ap&SS.308..225F. doi:10.1007/s10509-007-9368-0. S2CID 122256682.
  2. ^ a b Bignami, G. F.; et al. (September 1983). "An identification for 'Geminga' (2CG 195+04) 1E 0630+178 – A unique object in the error box of the high-energy gamma-ray source". Astrophysical Journal. 272: L9–L13. Bibcode:1983ApJ...272L...9B. doi:10.1086/184107.
  3. ^ "Naming Stars".
  4. ^ "Geminga". Internet Encyclopedia of Science.
  5. ^ Gehrels, N.; Chen, W. (1993). "The Geminga supernova as a possible cause of the local interstellar bubble". Nature. 361 (6414): 706. Bibcode:1993Natur.361..706G. doi:10.1038/361706a0. S2CID 4338940.
  6. ^ "The Sun's Exotic Neighborhood". Centauri Dreams. 28 February 2008.
  7. ^ Berghoefer, T. W.; Breitschwerdt, D. (2002). "The origin of the young stellar population in the solar neighborhood – a link to the formation of the Local Bubble?". Astronomy and Astrophysics. 390 (1): 299–306. arXiv:astro-ph/0205128v2. Bibcode:2002A&A...390..299B. doi:10.1051/0004-6361:20020627. S2CID 6002327.
  8. ^ Gabel, J. R.; Bruhweiler, F. C. (8 January 1998). "Model of an Expanding Supershell Structure in the LISM". American Astronomical Society. 51.09. Archived from the original on 15 March 2014. Retrieved 14 March 2014.
  9. ^ Garner, Rob (2019-12-19). "Fermi Links Nearby Pulsar's Gamma-ray 'Halo' to Antimatter Puzzle". NASA. Retrieved 2020-01-26.
  10. ^ Di Mauro, Mattia; Manconi, Silvia; Donato, Fiorenza (December 2019). "Detection of a γ-ray halo around Geminga with the Fermi-LAT data and implications for the positron flux". Physical Review D. 100 (12): 123015. arXiv:1903.05647. Bibcode:2019PhRvD.100l3015D. doi:10.1103/PhysRevD.100.123015. ISSN 1550-7998. S2CID 119218479.
  11. ^ Thompson, D. J.; et al. (April 1977). "Final SAS-2 gamma-ray results on sources in the galactic anticenter region". Astrophysical Journal. 213: 252–262. Bibcode:1977ApJ...213..252T. doi:10.1086/155152. hdl:2060/19760025006. S2CID 121094983.
  12. ^ Halpern, J. P.; Holt, S. S. (May 1992). "Discovery of soft X-ray pulsations from the gamma-ray source Geminga". Nature. 357 (6375): 222–224. Bibcode:1992Natur.357..222H. doi:10.1038/357222a0. S2CID 4281635.
  13. ^ Bertsch, D. L.; et al. (May 1992). "Pulsed high-energy gamma-radiation from Geminga (1E0630 + 178)". Nature. 357 (6376): 306–307. Bibcode:1992Natur.357..306B. doi:10.1038/357306a0. S2CID 4304133.
  14. ^ Bignami, G. F.; Caraveo, P. A. (May 1992). "Geminga – New Period Old Gamma-Rays". Nature. 357 (6376): 287. Bibcode:1992Natur.357..287B. doi:10.1038/357287a0. S2CID 36168064.
  15. ^ Mattox, J. R.; et al. (December 1992). "SAS 2 observation of pulsed high-energy gamma radiation from Geminga". Astrophysical Journal. 401: L23–L26. Bibcode:1992ApJ...401L..23M. doi:10.1086/186661.
  16. ^ Gil, J. A.; Khechinashvili, D. G.; Melikidze, G. I. (1998). "Why is the Geminga pulsar radio quiet at frequencies higher than about 100 MHz?". ASP Conference Series. 138: 119. Bibcode:1998ASPC..138..119G.
  17. ^ a b Jackson, M. S.; Halpern, J. P.; Gotthelf, E. V.; Mattox, J. R. (2002). "A High-Energy Study of the Geminga Pulsar". The Astrophysical Journal. 578 (2): 935–942. arXiv:astro-ph/0207001. Bibcode:2002ApJ...578..935J. doi:10.1086/342662. S2CID 119067655.
  18. ^ Mattox, J. R.; Halpern, J. P.; Caraveo, P. A. (1998). "Timing the Geminga Pulsar with Gamma-Ray Observations". The Astrophysical Journal. 493 (2): 891–897. Bibcode:1998ApJ...493..891M. doi:10.1086/305144.

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