Cassiopeia A (Cas A) is one of the most intensely studied supernova remnants. This false color image from the Chandra X-ray Observatory shows the location of different elements in the remains of the explosion: silicon (red), sulfur (yellow), calcium (green), and iron (purple). Each of those elements produces X-rays within narrow energy ranges, allowing maps of their location to be created. The blue outer ing is supernova’s.
All the elements more complex that hydrogen and helium are forged by fusion in stars, and all the elements further up the periodic table than iron are produced by supernovae. This Chandra data indicate that the Cas A supernova churned out massive amounts of key cosmic ingredients. Cas A produced about 10,000 Earth masses worth of sulfur alone and around 20,000 Earth masses of silicon. The iron in Cas A has the mass of about 70,000 times that of the Earth, but oxygen is the clear winner with one million Earth masses of it being ejected into space from Cas A. That’s about three times the mass of the Sun. However, we can’t “see” any oxygen in this Chandra image. Even though oxygen is the most abundant element in Cas A, its X-ray emissions are spread across a wide range of energies and cannot be isolated in this image.
Image Credit: NASA