XMM Chemical Map of Tycho
Credit: Dr. B. Aschenbach & ESA; D. Lumb

Chemical Segregation in Tycho

Most chemical elements are cooked up in cores of very heavy stars, and spread out into the Universe when these stars explode as supernovae. Now, new X-ray observatories are giving astronomers the ability to see in detail how this process works. An observation of the Tycho supernova remnant (which was named after the Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe, who first studied the supernova which occurred in November 1572) with the XMM-Newton X-ray observatory enabled astronomers to determine the spatial distribution of important elements. The images of the Tycho supernova remnant shown above were obtained by XMM-Newton in the X-ray light of silicon, calcium, sulfur and iron. Surprisingly these elements are not distributed uniformly throughout the nebula, but instead are spatially segregated. This indicates that different chemicals form in different parts of the exploding star and are mixed as the supernova ejecta expands out into the Universe. Evidently this seems to be a general rule, since a similar result was obtained by an observation of the Cas A supernova remnant by the Chandra X-ray Observatory.

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Page Author: Dr. Michael F. Corcoran
Last modified September 6, 2001