Watching a Supernova Remnant Grow

This time-lapse video shows the movement of a supernova remnant that erupted approximately 1,700 years ago. The gaseous remains of an exploded star named 1E 0102.2-7219, is in the Small Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy of our Milky Way. The opening frame shows ribbons of glowing gaseous clumps that make up the remnant. The video then toggles between a pair of black-and-white images taken 10 years apart, showing subtle shifts in the strands of gas over the decade. 

Video Credit: NASA / ESA / A. Pagan (STScI) / J. Banovetz and D. Milisavljevic (Purdue University)

Still More Cosmic Leftovers

This is a visualization of the supernova remnant known as SNR 0509-67.5 as seen by the Hubble Space Telescope. The delicate sphere of gas is being formed by the expanding blast wave from a supernova in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a small galaxy about 160,000 light-years from Earth. The ripples in the shell’s surface may be caused by either subtle variations in the density of the ambient interstellar gas, or they are possibly driven from the interior by pieces of the ejecta. The bubble-shaped shroud of gas is 23 light-years across and is expanding at more than 5,000 km/s.

Video Credit: NASA /ESA / G. Bacon, T. Borders, L. Frattare, Z. Levay, and F. Summers (STScI)

Cosmic Leftovers

This tangled web is an object known as SNR 0454-67.2. It’s a supernova remnant created after a massive star ended its life in a cataclysmic explosion and threw off its constituent material out into surrounding space. SNR 0454-67.2 lies in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy of the Milky Way. The remnant is probably the leftovers from a Type Ia supernova explosion. A Type IA supernova is the death of a white dwarf star that grown by siphoning material from a stellar companion until it reached critical mass and exploded.

Image Credit: ESA / NASA

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

Sloshing Supernova

This animation was generated the first mapping data of radioactivity in a supernova remnant, the blown-out bits and pieces of a massive star that exploded. The data was take by a NASA satellite called NuSTAR. The results, from a remnant named Cassiopeia A (Cas A), reveal how shock waves probably rip apart massive dying stars.

While small stars like our Sun die less violent deaths, larger stars (at least eight times as massive as the Sun) end up as supernovae. The high temperatures and particles created in explosions fuse lighter elements together to create heavier elements. The explosions of supernovae seeding the universe with many elements, including the gold in jewelry, the calcium in bones, and the iron in blood.

NuSTAR is the first telescope capable of producing maps of radioactive elements in supernova remnants—in this case, titanium-44. The NuSTAR map of Cas A shows the titanium concentrated in clumps at the remnant’s center and suggests a possible solution to the mystery of how the star met its demise. When researchers simulate supernova blasts with computers, as a massive star dies and collapses, the main shock wave often stalls out and the star fails to shatter. The latest findings strongly suggest that Cas A sloshed around, re-energizing the stalled shock wave and allowing the star to finally blow off its outer layers.

Video Credit: NASA

The Red Bubble

This is a visualization of the supernova remnant known as SNR 0509-67.5 as seen by the Hubble Space Telescope. The delicate sphere of gas is being formed by the expanding blast wave from a supernova in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a small galaxy about 160,000 light-years from Earth. The ripples in the shell’s surface may be caused by either subtle variations in the density of the ambient interstellar gas, or they are possibly driven from the interior by pieces of the ejecta. The bubble-shaped shroud of gas is 23 light-years across and is expanding at more than 5,000 km/s.

Video Credit: NASA /ESA / G. Bacon, T. Borders, L. Frattare, Z. Levay, and F. Summers (STScI)