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Exploding Star And It’s Stripes

March 25, 2011

The picture above is an X-ray image of supernova remnant, Tycho,  produced from the explosion of a white dwarf star in our galaxy. The image has been taken by Chandra X-ray observatory. The supernova remnant is about 13,000 light years away from earth and is located in Cassiopeia constellation in the Northern hemisphere. If you ask, how big is the explosion, it’s roughly 55 light years across (1 light year= 9.5 x 10^15 m). This supernova remnant was first observed by Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe, in 1572 and that’s how it  got it’s name.

Now let’s get to some science behind the image. The blue color seen on the rim of the circular blob is from high energy X-rays (blast wave which contains high energetic electrons), while the interior red color is from the low energy X-rays (which contain expanding debris from the supernova). The interesting phenomenon observed in this image is the presence of stripes in the outer regions of the exploding star. Such “X-ray” stripes have never been observed in any other supernova remnant.

These X-ray stripes are beleived to form due to high turbulence and magnetic field entglements as compared to surrounding regions. In these regions, the electrons get trapped and get energized and emit X-rays as they sprial along the magnetic lines. In the image below, the black lines are the magnetic field lines, while the red lines show the path of the electrion. The spacing between these stripes is determined by the radius of the spiralling high energy proton (path shown in yellow), the energy of which can be over 100 times larger than what can be gerenrated in Large Hadron collider! These high energy particles are believed to be the source of cosmic rays on earth. So that’s for the science behind this beautiful image!

Image and info credit: NASA/CXC/Rutgers/K.Eriksen et al.

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