Friday, June 02, 2006

The Ultimate Fate of Massive Stars

IC 443: Supernova Remnant and Neutron Star
Credit: Chandra X-ray: NASA/CXC/B.Gaensler et al; ROSAT X-ray: NASA/ROSAT/Asaoka & Aschenbach;
Radio Wide: NRC/DRAO/D.Leahy; Radio Detail: NRAO/VLA; Optical: DSS

Explanation: IC 443 is typical of the aftermath of a stellar explosion, the ultimate fate of massive stars. Seen in this false-color composite image, the supernova remnant is still glowing across the spectrum, from radio (blue) to optical (red) to x-ray (green) energies -- even though light from the stellar explosion that created the expanding cosmic cloud first reached planet Earth thousands of years ago. The odd thing about IC 443 is the apparent motion of its dense neutron star, the collapsed remnant of the stellar core. The close-up inset shows the swept-back wake created as the neutron star hurtles through the hot gas, but that direction is not aligned with the direction toward the apparent center of the remnant. The misalignment suggests that the explosion site was offset from the center or that fast-moving gas in the nebula has influenced the wake. The wide view of IC 443, also known as the Jellyfish nebula, spans about 65 light-years at the supernova remnant's estimated distance of 5,000 light-years.


Jason H. Bowden said...

I always find the sheer size of some of these nebulae amazing. A length of 65 million light-years is something difficult to imagine, though easy to conceive.

Jay Denari said...

Things like this are amazing; they just show how much there is to still learn about the universe.

The fact the star is moving reminded me of a great scifi book, Robert Forward's Dragon's Egg. That imagines a neutron star flying by our solar system near enough for us to visit it (obviously, with some tech we don't now possess)... and we find life there. If you haven't read it, you should; it's fascinating. (I also just found the sequel Starquake, but haven't read it yet.)

Stardust said...

jason - agree that the size of these nebulae is amazing. 65 million light years is indeed difficult to fathom.

jay - Thanks for the book suggestion. I will add it to my reading list. Sounds interesting.