Cas A
Credit: Chandra Observatory

Chandra Observation of the Supernova Remnant Cas A

NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory is the third of NASA's "Great Observatories". This telescope is designed to detect and image X-ray emission from stars, black holes and galaxies with better spatial and spectral resolution than any other X-ray observatory. Chandra was deployed by Space Shuttle Columbia in July of 1999. One of the first observations made by Chandra is this image of the X-ray emission from the supernova remnant Cassiopeia A. Cassiopeia A, or Cas A, is the remains of a massive star that exploded around three hundred years ago. The material from the explosion is rushing outward at supersonic speeds in excess of ten million miles per hour. As this matter crashes into gas that surrounded the former star, shock waves heat the ejected matter to temperatures in excess of fifty million degrees. This hot material produces the X-ray emission seen in this image, which was made by the Advanced CCD Imaging Spectrometer (ACIS) instrument on Chandra. The colors in this picture show the brightness of the X-ray emission, where yellow reveals the areas with the most intense x-ray emission. A major discovery already made by Chandra is the detection of the small bright point in the middle of the remnant, which many astronomers believe to be the "corpse" of the exploded star (probably either a neutron star or black hole).

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Page Author: Dr. Michael F. Corcoran
Last modified September 27, 1999