Chandra image of a classical nova shell
Credit: X-ray: S¸ölen Balman (METU, Turkey) and NASA; Radio: E. Seaquist (U Toronto)

X-ray Nebulae of a New Star

Stellar explosions are one way in which a star reshapes its environment. One particularly powerful type of outburst comes from the "classical novae", in which a compact white dwarf accretes material from a companion star. Eventually so much material accretes onto the white dwarf surface that a nuclear explosion occurs, and when this happens the star brightens enormously. But what happens to the material ejected in the explosion? A new observation by the Chandra X-ray Observatory of a classical nova called GK Persei helps answer this question. GK Per erupted in 1901, and the material ejected in the explosion has smacked into interstellar material, producing a shell of shocked gas which generates the X-ray emission that Chandra sees. The image above shows the Chandra X-ray image of the nova remnant as a false-color image; the contour lines are derived from a radio image by the Very Large Array. There's a strong correlation between the X-ray emission and the radio emission emission from the nova remnant. The Chandra observation shows that some of these shocks accelerate subatomic particles (like electrons), a process that's been observed in supernova remnants as well.

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