Chandra X-ray images of Tycho SNR from 2000 and 2015
Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/GSFC/B.Williams et al.; Optical: DSS

The Expansion of Tycho

The Tycho supernova remnant is the remains of the explosion of a white dwarf star. The supernova was observed from earth in AD 1572, and was so bright it was visible during the day. Famed Danish astronomer (and primitive rhinoplasty patient) Tycho Brahe observed and wrote extensively about the event, which is now named in his honor. Because it's relatively nearby and relatively young, the hot shocked gas in Tycho, produced by the stellar explosion, is a favorite target for X-ray astronomers. The image above shows two X-ray images of the hot shocked gas in the remnant obtained by the Chandra X-ray Observatory in 2000 and in 2015. Subtle differences can be seen, but a movie constructed from these images (and other images obtained by Chandra in 2003, 2007, and 2009) show the clear expansion of the remnant. Careful study shows that the rate of expansion is higher in some areas, by up to a factor of two. Astronomers have shown that this variation in the expansion rate is due to spatial differences in the interstellar medium, the gas and dust which surrounds the remnant. White dwarf supernovae are believed to be produced when a companion star dumps more material on the white dwarf than the white dwarf can handle, which causes a sudden thermonuclear explosion of the white dwarf. Understanding the details of the expansion of the remnant is therefore important in the hunt for the companion star left behind near the center of the explosion.
Published: May 30, 2016

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Page Author: Dr. Michael F. Corcoran
Last modified Monday, 06-Jun-2016 08:10:40 EDT