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Hubble, Chandra reveal a nova of many colors

Composite image of supernova remnant E0102-72 (Click for larger version)  

April 13, 2000
Web posted at: 12:18 PM EDT (1618 GMT)

(CNN) -- Images from different telescopes -- including NASA's two premier space observatories -- have been combined to create a multifaceted view of a supernova remnant, astronomers said this week.

The remnant, named E0102-72, is the aftermath of a star that exploded in a nearby galaxy known as the Small Magellanic Cloud.

The galaxy is about 190,000 light years from Earth, so the remnant is seen as it was about 190,000 years ago, around a thousand years after the explosion occurred, astronomers with the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics said in a statement.

The image is a composite of a radio data from the Australia Telescope Compact Array (red); optical data from the Hubble Space Telescope (green); and X-ray data from the Chandra X-ray Observatory (blue).

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The star exploded outward at speeds in excess of 20 million km/h (12 million mph) and collided with surrounding gas. The collision produced the cosmic equivalent of two sonic booms, one traveling outward, and the other rebounding back into the material ejected by the explosion, astronomers said.

The radio waves, the product of extremely high energy electrons spiraling around magnetic field lines in the gas, trace the outward moving shock wave.

The Chandra X-ray image, shown in blue, reveals gas that has been heated to millions of degrees Celsius by the rebounding, or reverse, shock wave. The X-ray data show that this gas is rich in oxygen and neon. These elements were created by nuclear reactions inside the star and hurled into space by the supernova, astronomers said.

The Hubble Space Telescope optical image shows dense clumps of oxygen gas that have "cooled" to about 30,000 degree Celsius.

Images such as these, taken with different types of telescopes, give astronomers a much more complete picture of supernova explosions, astronomers said.

Such data could enable them to map how the elements necessary for life are dispersed or measure the energy of the matter as it expands into the galaxy.



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RELATED SITES:
Hubble SM3A - Home
The Chandra X-ray Observatory Center
Australia Telescope Compact Array Home Page

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