Multiwavelength view of a new SNR in the LMC
Credit: P. Maggi et al.

Diagnosing Dead Stars

Exploding stars produce and distribute complex chemical elements and so are responsible for the most interesting items in the Universe (rocks, plants and people, among other things). Understanding the details of this process, and what causes the variations in cosmic chemistry seen in our Galaxy and others, is a fundamental quest of astrophysics. The best way to understand this process is through observation of remnants left behind by supernova in our Galaxy and in nearby ones. The image above shows MCSNR J0511-6759, one of four new supernova remnants in the Large Magellanic Cloud. These remnants were identified from their X-ray emission in a survey by the XMM-Newton Space Telescope. The image above shows X-ray, infra-red and optical images of the supernova remnant. The X-ray emission is at the center of an optical shell, and analysis of the X-ray spectrum of the remnant shows that up to one solar mass of iron is present in the remnant. This iron was mostly cooked up during the stellar explosion. Perhaps most interesting, the X-ray autopsy reveals that the supernova was associated with the sudden collapse of a massive white dwarf star which was pushed over its mass limit, causing an instantaneous thermonuclear detonation of the entire star.
Published: December 16, 2013

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Page Author: Dr. Michael F. Corcoran
Last modified Sunday, 22-Dec-2013 20:06:37 EST