Tycho’s Supernova

This image provides a new look at the Tycho supernova remnant, named for Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe who noticed the bright glow of this new “star” in the constellation Cassiopeia in 1572. Data from the Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer has revealed the geometry of the magnetic fields close to the supernova’s blast wave, which is still propagating from the initial explosion and forms a boundary around the ejected material. Understanding the magnetic field geometry allows scientists to further investigate how particles are accelerated there.

In this composite image, data from IPXE (dark purple and white) have been combined with those from Chandra X-ray Observatory (red and blue), which were overlaid with the stars in the field of view seen by the Digitized Sky Survey.

Image Credit: NASA

A New View of the Crab Nebula

This image of the Crab Nebula combines data from the Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE) in magenta and the Chandra X-ray Observatory in dark purple. The Crab Pulsar at the center of the nebula is the remnant of the explosion of a massive star. The IXPE data show that the nebula has a donut-shaped magnetic field.

Image Credits: X-ray (IXPE: NASA) / (Chandra: NASA,CXC,SAO)
Image Processing: NASA / CXC / SAO / K. Arcand and L. Frattare

The Tycho Supernova Remnant

The Tycho supernova remnant is what’s left of an exploded star first seen on Earth in 1572. New results using data from the Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer offer new insight about how such terrific stellar explosions accelerate particles to nearly the speed of light and, for the first time, reveal the geometry of the magnetic fields which form a boundary around the ejected material. This composite image was assembled using data from IXPE  (dark purple and white) and Chandra X-ray Observatory (red and blue) overlaid with visible light data from the Digitized Sky Survey.

Image Credits: X-ray IXPE: NASA / ASI / MSFC / INAF / R. Ferrazzoli, et al.
X-ray Chandra: NASA / CXC / RIKEN & GSFC /T . Sato et al.
Optical: DSS
Image processing: NASA / CXC / SAO / K. Arcand, L. Frattare & N. Wolk

The Oldest Known Supernova

This image combines data from four space telescopes to create a multi-wavelength view of all that remains of RCW 86, the oldest documented example of a supernova. Chinese astronomers witnessed the event in A. D. 185, recording a “guest star” that remained in the sky for eight months. X-ray images from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and the European Space Agency’s XMM-Newton Observatory were combined to form the blue and green colors in the image. The X-rays show the interstellar gas that has been heated to millions of degrees by the passage of the shock wave from the supernova. Infrared data from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope and WISE, Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer, shown in yellow and red, reveal dust radiating at a temperature of several hundred degrees below zero, warm by comparison to normal dust in our Milky Way galaxy.

Astronomers were able to determine from the X-ray and Infrared data that the cause of the explosion was a Type Ia supernova. In a Type 1a  supernova an otherwise-stable white dwarf or dead star is pushed beyond the brink of stability when a companion star dumps material onto it.

Scientists also used the data to solve another mystery surrounding the remnant: how it got to be so large in such a short amount of time. By blowing away wind prior to exploding, the white dwarf was able to clear out a huge cavity, a region of very low-density surrounding the system. The explosion into this cavity was able to expand much faster than it otherwise would have. This is the first time that this type of cavity has been verified around a white dwarf system prior to explosion. Scientists say the results may have significant implications for theories of white-dwarf binary systems and Type Ia supernovae.

RCW 86 is approximately 8,000 light-years away. At about 85 light-years in diameter, it occupies a region of the sky in the southern constellation of Circinus that covers slightly more of the sky than the full moon.

Image Credit: NASA/ESA