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01
June
2016

Chandra Movie Captures Expanding Debris From a Stellar Explosion

For the very first time, a movie has been made of the evolution of Tycho's Supernova remnant (the remnant of an exploded star in 1592 cataloged by Danish Astronomer Tycho Brahe).

Today, astronomers have observed the debris field from this explosion - what is now known as Tycho's supernova remnant - using data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Laboratory, the NSF's Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (VLA) and many other telescopes. They know now that the Tycho remnant was created by the explosion of a white dwarf star, making it part of the so-called Type Ia class of supernovas used to track the expansion of the Universe.

Since much of the material being flung out from the shattered star has been heated by shock waves - similar to sonic booms from supersonic planes - passing through it, the remnant glows strongly in X-ray light . Astronomers have now used Chandra observations from 2000 through 2015 to create the longest movie of the Tycho remnant's X-ray evolution over time, using five different images. This shows the expansion from the explosion is still continuing about 450 years later, as seen from Earth's vantage point roughly 10,000 light years away.

By combining the X-ray data with some 30 years of observations in radio waves with the VLA , astronomers have also produced a movie, using three different images. Astronomers have used these X-ray and radio data to learn new things about this supernova and its remnant.

The researchers measured the speed of the blast wave at many different locations around the remnant. The large size of the remnant enables this motion to be measured with relatively high precision. Although the remnant is approximately circular, there are clear differences in the speed of the blast wave in different regions. The speed in the right and lower right directions is about twice as large as that in the left and the upper left directions. This difference was also seen in earlier observations.

Understanding the location of the explosion center is important in supernova remnants, as it helps narrow the search for any surviving star that may have been a companion of the star that exploded. Finding such a star would have far-reaching implications for the understanding of how supernovae explode.

A paper describing these results has been accepted for publication in The Astrophysical Journal Letters and is available online . The authors are Brian Williams of the Universities Space Research Association working at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center), Laura Chomiuk (Michigan State University), John Hewitt (University of North Florida), John Blondin (North Carolina State University), Kazimierz Borkowski (NCSU), Parviz Ghavamian (Towson University), Robert Petre (GSFC), and Stephen Reynolds (NCSU).

NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, manages the Chandra program for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Massachusetts, controls Chandra's science and flight operations.



About USRA

Universities Space Research Association is an independent, nonprofit research corporation where the combined efforts of in-house talent and university-based expertise merge to advance space science and technology. USRA works across disciplines including biomedicine, planetary science, astrophysics, and engineering and integrates those competencies into applications ranging from fundamental research to facility management and operations. USRA engages the creativity and authoritative expertise of the research community to develop and deliver sophisticated, forward-looking solutions to Federal agencies and other government sponsors.