June 15, 2017

Cassiopeia A

Cassiopeia A

  • Cassiopeia A (Cas A for short) is the debris field left behind after a massive star exploded.
  • This explosion would have appeared in Earth's sky over 300 years ago.
  • A new image from Chandra's deep data of Cas A is being released that improves the appearance of the different bands of X-rays.

Cassiopeia A is a supernova remnant (SNR) in the constellation Cassiopeia and the brightest extrasolar radio source in the sky at frequencies above 1 GHz. The supernova occurred approximately 11,000 light-years (3.4 kpc) away within the Milky Way. The expanding cloud of material left over from the supernova now appears approximately 10 light-years (3 pc) across from Earth's perspective. In wavelengths of visible light, it has been seen with amateur telescopes down to 234mm (9.25 in) with filters.

It is believed that first light from the stellar explosion reached Earth approximately 300 years ago but there are no historical records of any sightings of the supernova that created the remnant, probably due to interstellar dust absorbing optical wavelength radiation before it reached Earth (although it is possible that it was recorded as a sixth magnitude star 3 Cassiopeiae by John Flamsteed on August 16, 1680). Possible explanations lean toward the idea that the source star was unusually massive and had previously ejected much of its outer layers. These outer layers would have cloaked the star and re-absorbed much of the light released as the inner star collapsed.

Image Credit: NASA/CXC/SAO
Explanation from: http://chandra.harvard.edu/photo/2013/casa/ and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cassiopeia_A

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