Cas A ACIS color image
Credit: NASA/CXC/SAO/Rutgers/J.Hughes

A Star Turned Inside Out

When a high mass star explodes it produces large cloud of gas called a supernova remnant. The material which makes up the remnant was originally contained inside the star, so by studying this material astronomers can in effect study the stellar interior. The X-ray image of the Cas A supernova remnant shown above, obtained by the Chandra X-ray observatory, has given astronomers an unbelievably detailed look at the composition of the gas in the remnant. The colors represent the energy of the detected X-rays (red, low energy; green, medium; and blue, high energy X-rays). Through a detailed analysis of this image astronomers at Rutgers University have been able to determine the local composition of the gas. What they found was a surprise: their analysis showed that the outer regions of the nebula must have formed deep in the stellar interior, while material near the center of the nebula formed in outer layers of the stellar interior. In effect, the supernova explosion turned the star inside out.

Last Week * HEA Dictionary * Archive * Search HEAPOW * Education

Each week the HEASARC brings you new, exciting and beautiful images from X-ray and Gamma ray astronomy. Check back each week and be sure to check out the HEAPOW archive!

Page Author: Dr. Michael F. Corcoran
Last modified September 24, 2001