A “Young” Supernova Remnant

g306_wideAstronomers estimate that a supernova explosion occurs perhaps a couple of times a century in the Milky Way. The expanding blast wave and hot stellar debris slowly dissipate over hundreds of thousands of years, eventually mixing with and becoming indistinguishable from interstellar gas. The Swift satellite uncovered the previously unknown remains of a shattered star during an X-ray survey of the galaxy’s central regions. The new object, named G306.3-0.9 after it’s coordinates in the sky,is among the youngest of the 300+ known supernova remnants in the Milky Way. Analysis indicates that G306.3–0.9 is probably less than 2,500 years old. That would make it one of the 20 youngest supernova remnants identified.

This composite image of G306.3–0.9 (the blob in the lower left) was stitched together using data from Chandra X-ray observations (blue), infrared data acquired by the Spitzer Space Telescope (red and cyan) and radio observations (purple) from the Australia Telescope Compact Array.

G306_Swift_XRTjpgThe image on the left was taken in February, 2011, using Swift’s X-ray Telescope as part of the Galactic Plane Survey. The dots in the image indicate where X-rays struck the detector. Despite this short 8.5-minute exposure, the extended circular patch of G306.3–0.9 stands out quite nicely.

Image Credits: NASA

A Cosmic Puff Ball

sn1006This cosmic puff ball is the remains of the brightest supernova in recorded history. In AD 1006, a supernova lit up the nighttime skies  and was seen by observers China, Egypt, Iraq, Italy, Japan, and Switzerland. This image was assembled from data at three different wavelength  of X-rays taken from orbit by Chandra X-ray Observatory. The debris cloud from what is now called the SN 1006 supernova remnant is about 60 light-years across. It’s the remains of a white dwarf star that was part of a binary star system. The white dwarf gradually captured ate its companion star, and the increase in mass caused a thermonuclear explosion. Because the supernova remnant is about 7,000 light-years away, that explosion actually happened 7,000 years before the light reached Earth in 1006, or in roughly 6000 BC.

Image Credit: NASA