- Cassiopeia's new film The Remnant of Supernova shows how it has evolved over more than a dozen years in X-ray light.
- NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory monitors Cas A as a nickname, repeatedly during its 20 years of operation.
- These time-lapse observations offer a rare chance to observe how a space object changes in the human time range.
- Researchers use this data to learn more about explosion physics and the expanding effects of debris.
NASA's Xander Observatory has captured many spectacular images of cosmic phenomena during its two decades of operation, but perhaps its most emblematic remnant of supernova Cassiopeia A.
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The shock waves generated by this explosion recharge the remains of the stars and its environment, making the debris vivid Shining in many types of light, especially X-rays. Shortly after Chandra's launch on the space shuttle Columbia on July 23, 1999, astronomers directed the observatory to point to Cas A. This was included in the official image of Chandra's "First Light," published on August 26, 1999, and noted a start point only for the observatory, but for the field of X-ray astronomy. Near the center of the intricate pattern of expanding debris from the shattered star, the image revealed for the first time a dense object called a neutron star which the supernova left behind.
Since then, Chandra has repeatedly returned to Cas A to learn more about this important site. A new video shows the evolution of Cas A over time, allowing viewers to watch as incredibly hot gas – about 20 million degrees Fahrenheit – in the rest expands outward. These X-ray data are combined with data from another of NASA's Big Observatories, the Hubble Space Telescope showing delicate filamentary structures of cooler gases at about 20,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Hubble data for a period of time are shown to highlight changes in Chandra's data.
The video shows Chandra's observations of Cas A from 2000 to 2013. At this time, a child can enter kindergarten and graduate from high school. Although the transformation may not be as obvious as that of a student over the same period, it is remarkable to observe how a cosmic object changes on a human time scale.
The blue, outer region of Cass A indicates an expanding explosive wave of explosion. The blast wave is composed of shock waves, similar to the sound arrows generated by a supersonic aircraft. These expanding shockwaves produce x-rays and are places where particles accelerate to energies that reach about twice as high as the most powerful accelerator on Earth, the Large Hadron Collider. As the blast wave moves out at a speed of about 11 million miles per hour, it collides with the surrounding material and slows down, generating a second shock wave – called "reverse shock" – that moves backwards, much like a traffic jam moves backwards. from the scene of a highway accident.
These blowbacks are usually seen as weak and much slower movements than the blast wave. However, an astronomy team led by Toshiki Sato of RIKEN in Saitama, Japan, and NASA's Godard Space Flight Center reported back shocks in Cas A, which appear bright and fast-moving, with speeds between about 5 and 9 million miles per hour. These unusual back shocks were probably caused by the blast, which met the accumulated material surrounding the residue, as Sato and the team discuss in their 2018 survey. This causes the blast to slow down faster, which again feeds back shock, brighter and faster. The particles are also accelerated to colossal energies by these internally moving shocks, reaching about 30 times the energies of the LHC.
This recent study of Cas A completes a long collection of Chandra's discoveries over the course of the 20-year telescope. In addition to finding the central neutron star, Chandra's data reveal the distribution of life-required elements ejected from the explosion (shown above), have built a remarkable three-dimensional supernova remnant model, and more.
Scientists also created a historical record in Cas A's optical light using photographic plates from the Palomar Observatory in California from 1951 and 1989, which were digitized by digital access to the celestial age @ Harvard (DASCH) located at the Center for Astrophysics Harvard & Smithsonian ( CfA ). These were combined with additional terrestrial images obtained in 1996 and 1999 from the MDM Observatory and images taken by the Hubble Space Telescope between 2004 and 2011. This long-term view of Cas A allowed astronomers Dan Patno of CfA and Robert Dessmouth College professor to learn more about explosion physics and the resulting remnants of both X-ray and optical data.
The NASA Marshall Space Center manages the Chandra program. The X-ray Center of the Chandras Astrophysical Observatory controls science and flight operations from Cambridge, Massachusetts.