November 14, 2012
Space Observatories Capture Stellar Explosion Aftershock
Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
A new image released by the European Space Agency (ESA) shows the aftershock of a stellar explosion coming from supernova remnant W44.
W44 is about 10,000 light-years away from Earth in a forest of dense star-forming clouds in the constellation of Aquila. ESA said the image is one of the best examples of a supernova remnant interacting with its parent molecular cloud. The supernova remnant measures about 100 light-years across.
Supernova remnants are the product of a massive star that has already reached the end of its life and expelled its outer layers in a dramatic explosion. All that remains of the supernova is the spinning core of a neutron star, or pulsar.
Pulsar PSR B1853+01 can be seen in the image, showing up as the bright point to the top left in W44. The pulsar is thought to be around 20,000 years old, and as it rapidly rotates it sweeps out a wind of highly energetic particles and beams of light ranging from radio to X-ray energies.
ESA said the center of the supernova remnant is bright, with temperatures reaching several million degrees. At the cooler edge of the cavity, gas is swept up as the supernova remnant propagates through space.
Towards the top right of the expanding shell, you can find a small cavity. This region is filled with hot gas that has been ionized by the intense ultraviolet radiation from embedded young massive stars.
ESA's Herschel far-infrared was able to help image regions of gently heated gas and dust further from W44, where new stars are coming together.
The arrowhead shaped star-formation region to the right of W44 appears to point to another trio of intricate clouds further to the right and above, according to ESA.
A number of compact objects scattered across the scene maps out the cold seeds of future stars that will eventually emerge out from their cocoons.
A diffuse purple emission can be seen towards the bottom left of the image, providing a glimpse of the Galactic Plane.
The image was created by combining data from ESA's Herschel and XMM-Newton space observatories.