Scientists have compared an exploded star to an impressive Christmas bauble.
A new image from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope shows the 60-trillion-mile-wide supernova remnant Cassiopeia A (Cas A).
The space agency described it Sunday (10 Dec) as “like a shiny, round ornament ready to be placed in the perfect spot on a holiday tree”.
They explain: “While all is bright, this scene is no proverbial silent night. Webb’s NIRCam (Near-Infrared Camera) view of Cas A displays this stellar explosion at a resolution previously unreachable at these wavelengths.”
The high-resolution imagery unveils intricate details of the expanding shell of material slamming into the gas shed by the star before it exploded.
Cas A is one of the most well-studied supernova remnants in all of the cosmos. Over the years, ground-based and space-based observatories, including NASA’s Chandra X-Ray Observatory, Hubble Space Telescope, and retired Spitzer Space Telescope have assembled a multiwavelength picture of the object’s remnant.
However, astronomers have now entered a new era in the study of Cas A. In April 2023, Webb’s MIRI (Mid-Infrared Instrument) started this chapter, revealing new and unexpected features within the inner shell of the supernova remnant. Many of those features are invisible in the new NIRCam image, and astronomers are investigating why.
“With NIRCam’s resolution, we can now see how the dying star absolutely shattered when it exploded, leaving filaments akin to tiny shards of glass behind,” said Danny Milisavljevic of Purdue University, who leads the research team. “It’s really unbelievable after all these years studying Cas A to now resolve those details, which are providing us with transformational insight into how this star exploded.”
The Webb telescope is the largest telescope in space, being equipped with high-resolution and high-sensitivity instruments, allowing it to view objects too old, distant, or faint for the Hubble Space Telescope.
Produced in association with SWNS Talker
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