Nov 23, 2011
Picture of the month
The remains of the oldest documented supernova are beautifully displayed here by combining images from four different space telescopes. The exploding star was observed during eight months by Chinese astronomers back in 185 AD (CERN Courier January/February 2006 p10). X-ray emission from an expanding shock wave is shown in blue and green colours based on observations by ESA’s XMM-Newton satellite and NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory. Infrared emission from cool gas is shown in yellow and red as observed by two other NASA satellites: the Spitzer Space Telescope and the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer. The combined view allowed astronomers to determine that the supernova was of type Ia and that the remnant, called RCW 86, expanded rapidly into a cavity that was likely to have been blown out in the interstellar medium by a wind from the white dwarf star prior to exploding.
About the author
Compiled by Marc Türler, INTEGRAL Science Data Centre and Observatory of the University of Geneva.