IR and X-ray image of SNR 0104-72.3
Credit: X-ray (NASA/CXC/Penn State/S.Park & J.Lee); IR (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

What Broke the Ball?

Although stars can be flattened by rotation, in general they're pretty spherical. The Sun, for example, deviates from being a perfect sphere, but only by about 0.001%. So when stars blow up, they are expected to blow up pretty equally in all directions. And round supernova remnants like Tycho, Kepler and Cas A bear this out. However such is not always the case. Take SN 0104-72.3, for instance. This supernova remnant in the Small Magellanic Cloud, probably produced by the thermonuclear destruction of a white dwarf star, doesn't look round at all. This supernova is shown above in a composite image in which red and green colors represent infrared emission observed by the Spitzer Space Telescope, while purple colors represent X-ray emission observed by the Chandra X-ray Observatory. The X-ray image apparently shows two "lobes" emanating from the center of the nebula. Astronomers are not sure if these lobes are the remnants of 2 oppositely-directed jets produced during the explosion of the star, or if they were produced by the pre-structuring of the circumstellar medium by the star in the millennia before the explosion.
Published: June 22, 2009

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