Credit: Max-Planck-Institut für extraterrestrische Physik and the ROSAT Mission

Broken Star Bubble

When a star explodes, is the explosion equal in all directions, or is the explosion more forceful in some directions than others? In the particular case of the Vela supernova remnant, the remains of a stellar explosion which happened about 11,000 years ago, astronomers have taken an X-ray image of this remnant and found a round ball of million degree gas, as shown in the above X-ray image. This image, obtained by the ROSAT Position Sensitive Proportional Counter, shows the bubble of hot gas produced by the explosion as a surprisingly uniform sphere, though variations in the sphere produced by the non-uniformity of the interstellar gas and dust surrounding the explosion are also evident. This indicates that the explosive force was nearly equal in all directons. Surprisingly though there are pieces of material which have shot through the bubble. These pieces are labelled A-F in the above image. Astronomers can trace these pieces back to a common origin. The origin is very near the white point of X-ray light near the center of the supernova remnant; this white point is a neutron star, the remains of the collapsed core of the exploded star.

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Page Author: Dr. Michael F. Corcoran
Last modified August 13, 2001