Frames from the Chandra Movie of Cas A
Credit: NASA/CXC/SAO/D.Patnaude et al

Cas A in 4-D

Astronomers usually count themselves fortunate to be able to study objects in 2 dimensions. Sometimes geometry, speeds and a theoretical model can help astronomers reconstruct objects in all their 3 spatial dimensions. Geometry, speeds, theoretical models and patience can provide that rare 4th dimensional view: 3 spatial dimensions evolving in time. Thanks to the Chandra X-ray Observatory, that's the unique view astronomers now have of one of the most spectacular objects in the Milky Way, the Cas A supernova remnant. Cas A is a favorite target of Chandra's: one of Chandra's first pointings was at Cas A, and Chandra immediately found the neutron star left behind by the stellar explosion that produced the supernova remnant. Enterprising astronomers have now stitched together individual observations from 1999-2007 to create a movie of the evolution of the remnant with time. The image above show four frames of the movie from 2000, 2002, 2004 and 2004; a fiducial arc is used to show changes from one frame to another. The evolution of the remnant provides astronomers with a wealth of information, like how much of the explosion energy gets sapped away by accelerating cosmic rays.
Published: January 12, 2009

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Page Author: Dr. Michael F. Corcoran
Last modified Friday, 20-Apr-2012 15:24:07 EDT