ACIS Cas A Line Image
Credit: NASA/GSFC U. Hwang et al./CXC

Chemical Segregation in Cas A

Chemical elements heavier than helium are thought to be produced in the cores of massive stars. These elements are distributed to the Galaxy when these stars explode as supernovae. The Chandra X-ray telescope is now giving us, for the first time, a detailed view of how this distribution process works. The image above is a deep image of the supernova remnant Cassiopeia A (or Cas A for short), obtained with Chandra's ACIS camera. The ACIS camera allows astronomers to measure the characteristic X-ray emission generated by particular chemical elements, like silicon, calcium and iron. The image at the top left shows the integrated (broad-band) X-ray image; the top right image shows the emission generated by silicon atoms; the bottom left image shows the emission generated by calcium atoms; and the bottom right image shows the X-ray emission generated by Fe atoms. In these images, the colors represent intensity of X rays, with yellow the most intense, then red, purple, and green. These images support the suggestion that the layers of the star were overturned either before or during the supernova explosion.

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Page Author: Dr. Michael F. Corcoran
Last modified June 28, 2000