Overview

Cassiopeia A, a relatively young supernova remnant in the Milky Way galaxy, is shown in 3D using data from the Chandra X-ray Observatory, Spitzer Space Telescope, and optical telescopes. Scientists determined the positions of the different materials, represented by the various colors in the visualization, using the Doppler effect. This is the first time a data-driven 3D model of a supernova remnant has been displayed using Augmented Reality.

Note on Scale: The Cassiopeia A supernova remnant is about 40 million billion times the surface area of our Sun and eight planets.

WHO: Cassiopeia A (Cas A) is a relatively young supernova remnant in the Milky Way galaxy.

WHAT: A supernova remnant is the expanding debris field of hot gas and energetic particles created when a massive star explodes.

WHERE: Cas A, at a distance of 11,000 light years from Earth, is in the constellation Cassiopeia. This constellation is widely known for its “W” shape that Greek and Roman mythology identified as a queen’s throne.

WHEN: Although the exact date is uncertain, this supernova would have appeared in the night sky about 330 years ago.

HOW: The supernova that created Cas A is thought to have occurred when a star about 25 times as massive as the Sun ran out of fuel for nuclear power. Its core then collapsed to form an ultra-dense object called a neutron star, and the outer layers of the star were ejected at enormous speeds.

WHY: Supernovas occur about once every 50 years in the Galaxy when stars much more massive than our Sun die. They energize their surroundings and disperse the heavy elements forged within these stellar interiors. Supernova remnants reveal information about the grand Galactic drama of life, death and renewal.: Cassiopeia A (Cas A) is a relatively young supernova remnant in the Milky Way galaxy.


Credits

About Chandra:

The Chandra X-ray Observatory is NASA's flagship mission for X-ray astronomy. Chandra is a telescope specially designed to detect X-ray emission from very hot regions of the Universe such as exploded stars, clusters of galaxies, and matter around black holes.

Learn more about Chandra: http://chandra.si.edu/

Credit:

NASA/CXC/MIT/T.Delaney et al.; NASA/CXC/SAO/K.Arcand & Brown University/T.Sgouros, E.Jiang & A.Stewart. Chandra is operated for NASA by SAO with funding from NASA under Contract NAS8-03060.


Details

Cassiopeia A, a relatively young supernova remnant in the Milky Way galaxy, is shown in 3D using data from the Chandra X-ray Observatory, Spitzer Space Telescope, and optical telescopes. Scientists determined the positions of the different materials, represented by the various colors in the visualization, using the Doppler effect. This is the first time a data-driven 3D model of a supernova remnant has been displayed using Augmented Reality.

Researchers used combined data from Chandra, NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, and ground-based facilities to construct this unique 3D model of the 300-year old remains of a stellar explosion that blew a massive star apart, sending the stellar debris rushing into space at millions of miles per hour.

When elements created inside a supernova, such as iron, silicon and argon, are heated they emit light at specific wavelengths. The motion of the material Doppler-shifts the light so that material moving towards the observer is seen at shorter wavelengths and material moving away is seen at longer wavelengths. Since the amount of the wavelength shift is related to the speed of motion, one can determine how fast the debris are moving in either direction. Because Cas A is the result of an explosion, the stellar debris are expanding radially outwards from the explosion center. Using simple geometry, scientists had previously constructed the 3D model using all of this information and special 3D imaging software modified for astronomical use.

This new visualization takes advantage of AR technology to bring the model to your home or office. The 3D model and visualization helps show that there are two main components to this supernova remnant: a spherical component in the outer parts of the remnant and a flattened (disk-like) component in the inner region. The spherical component consists of the outer layer of the star that exploded, probably made of helium and carbon. These layers drove a spherical blast wave into the diffuse gas surrounding the star. The flattened component consists of the inner layers of the star. It is made from various heavier elements, not all shown in the visualization, such as oxygen, neon, silicon, sulfur, argon and iron.

High-velocity plumes, or jets, of this material are shooting out from the explosion in the plane of the disk-like component mentioned above. Plumes of silicon appear in the northeast and southwest, while those of iron are seen in the southeast and north.

The insight into the structure of Cas A gained from the original 3D visualization is important for astronomers who build models of supernova explosions. Now, they must consider that the outer layers of the star come off spherically, but the inner layers come out more disk-like with high-velocity jets in multiple directions.