Picture of the Day: X-rays Break Through a Gas Cocoon

More
supernova615.jpg

NASA

Galaxies collide and stars grow very, very slowly. Astronomical timescales are massive, and it's rare that scientists can view dramatic changes in the sky. But such is the case with the image above: the first X-ray evidence of a supernova shock wave breaking through a cloud of gas around an exploded star.

160 million years ago, the supernova above -- located in the galaxy UGC 5189A -- exploded, and in early October 2010, the first rays of that explosion reached Earth. The Chandra X-ray Observatory, NASA's x-ray space telescope, captured the galaxy's image both in December 2010 and eleven months later, in October 2011. The Hubble Space Telescope also photographed the galaxy. The image above is a composite of all three: X-rays are shown in purple, overlaid on the Hubble's photograph of the visible spectrum.

Here's where the evidence comes from: SN 2010jl, which shines brightest with X-rays near the top of the galaxy. (Although there is another strong X-ray source, possibly a black hole, very close to it.) When observed in December, SN 2010jl's X-rays were mostly absorbed by the supernova's surrounding "cocoon" of gas. In the second -- eleven months later -- the supernova's incredibly hot gas has scattered X-rays beyond the cocoon. A noticeable change in two different observations, and evidence that a supernova's energy breaks through its gas cocoon.

Below, recent Pictures of the Day:

Jump to comments
Presented by

Robinson Meyer is an associate editor at The Atlantic, where he covers technology.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

What's the Number One Thing We Could Do to Improve City Life?

A group of journalists, professors, and non-profit leaders predict the future of livable, walkable cities


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Adventures in Legal Weed

Colorado is now well into its first year as the first state to legalize recreational marijuana. How's it going? James Hamblin visits Aspen.

Video

What Makes a Story Great?

The storytellers behind House of CardsandThis American Life reflect on the creative process.

Video

Tracing Sriracha's Origin to Thailand

Ever wonder how the wildly popular hot sauce got its name? It all started in Si Racha.

Video

Where Confiscated Wildlife Ends Up

A government facility outside of Denver houses more than a million products of the illegal wildlife trade, from tigers and bears to bald eagles.

Video

Is Wine Healthy?

James Hamblin prepares to impress his date with knowledge about the health benefits of wine.

Video

The World's Largest Balloon Festival

Nine days, more than 700 balloons, and a whole lot of hot air

Writers

Up
Down

More in Technology

Just In