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Tag Archives: supernovae

To commemorate October as American Archive Month, six new images have been released from the Chandra Data Archive. The archive houses the data from Chandra’s observations, making them available for ongoing and future studies.



The objects are: (top row, l-r) W44, a supernova remnant; SN 1987A, the remnant of a bright nearby supernova; Kes 79, a super nova remnant; (bottom row, l-r) MS 0735.6+7421, an erupting galaxy cluster; 3C295, a galaxy cluster within a superheated gas cloud; the Guitar Nebula, a pulsar.

Further details about these images and objects, and many more, may be found on the Chandra website.

From an article on

The High Altitude Water Cherenkov (HAWC) Gamma-Ray Observatory, located at 4000 m above sea level on the slopes of Mexico’s Volcán Sierra Negra, is the newest tool available to visualize the most energetic phenomena in the Universe, such as supernovae, neutron star collisions and active galactic nuclei.


Credit: HAWC Collaboration

In March 2015, construction was completed on HAWC’s 300th and final detector tank (each holding 200,000 liters of water), and the observatory will soon begin collecting data at full capacity.

It is a joint project between U.S. and Mexican scientists, with some participation from Polish and Costa Rican scientists.

Links: article; HAWC Observatory home.

To celebrate the 15th anniversary of the launch of the Chandra X-ray Observatory’s launch, the Chandra X-ray Center at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory has released four new images of supernova remnants in their press release of July 22, 2014.



Since its deployment on July 23, 1999, Chandra has helped revolutionize our understanding of the Universe through its unrivaled X-ray vision. One of NASA’s current “Great Observatories,” along with the Hubble Space Telescope and Spitzer Space Telescope, Chandra is specially designed to detect X-ray emission from hot and energetic regions of the universe.

With its superb sensitivity and resolution, Chandra has observed objects ranging from the closest planets and comets to the most distant known quasars. It has imaged the remains of exploded stars, or supernova remnants, observed the region around the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way, and discovered black holes across the universe. Chandra also has made a major advance in the study of dark matter by tracing the separation of dark matter from normal matter in collisions between galaxy clusters. It is also contributing to research on the nature of dark energy.

The four new images of supernova remnants – the Crab Nebula, Tycho, G292.0+1.8, and 3C58 – are very hot and energetic and glow brightly in X-ray light, which allows Chandra to capture them in exquisite detail.

Links: the Chandra X-ray Center press release; images and further descriptions here.

Adapted from AIP Advances press release, March 18, 2014:

A powerful, new computer model provides fresh insight into the turbulent death throes of supernovae (see Section 13.2, p. 337).

Credit. W. D. Arnett, C. Meakin and M. Viallet/AIP Advances

The new model, developed by W. David Arnett (U. of Arizona) and colleagues, is the first to represent the start of a supernova collapse in three dimensions. It shows how the turbulent mixing of elements inside stars causes them to expand, contract, and spit out matter before they finally detonate. Arnett’s new model better matches what we observe in supernova remnants, with ejections of star material mixing with the material expelled during its final explosion.

The article, ‘Chaos and turbulent nucleosynthesis prior to a supernova explosion’ by David Arnett, Casey Meakin and Maxime Viallet is published in the journal AIP Advances.

Links: full AIP press release; the research article.

A bright supernova discovered only six weeks ago in a nearby galaxy is provoking new questions about the exploding stars that scientists use as their main yardstick for measuring the Universe. (See this earlier post about SN 2014J.)


Credit: W. Zheng and A. Filippenko (UC Berkeley)

When The Cosmos author Alex Filippenko’s research team at UC Berkeley looked for the supernova in data collected by the Katzman Automatic Imaging Telescope (KAIT) at Lick Observatory, they discovered that the robotic telescope had actually taken a photo of it 37 hours after it appeared, unnoticed, on January 14.

Combining this observation with another chance observation by a Japanese amateur astronomer, Filippenko’s team was able to calculate that SN 2014J had unusual characteristics – it brightened faster than expected for a Type Ia supernova and, even more intriguing, it exhibited the same unexpected, rapid brightening as another supernova that KAIT discovered and imaged last year (SN 2013dy).

Alex Filippenko reports: “Now, two of the three most recent and best-observed Type Ia supernovae are weird, giving us new clues to how stars explode. This may be teaching us something general about Type Ia supernovae that theorists need to understand. Maybe what we think of as ‘normal’ behavior for these supernovae is actually unusual, and this weird behavior is the new normal.”

A paper describing the SN 2014J observations was posted online this week by The Astrophysical Journal Letters and will appear in the March 1 print issue.

Links: UC Berkeley press release (including further background on Type Ia supernovae); the research paper in ApJL.

An exceptionally close supernova (a stellar explosion, see Section 13.2, p. 337) discovered on January 21, 2014, has become the focus of observatories around the globe, as well as a suite of orbiting spacecraft. The blast, designated SN 2014J, occurred in the bright galaxy M82 and lies about 12 million light-years away. This makes it the nearest optical supernova in two decades and potentially the closest type Ia supernova to occur during the life of currently operating space missions.

Credit and copyright: Adam Block, Mt. Lemmon SkyCenter, U. Arizona.

SN 2014J was first spotted as an unfamiliar source in the otherwise familiar galaxy by teaching fellow Steve Fossey and astronomy workshop students Ben Cooke, Tom Wright, Matthew Wilde, and Guy Pollack at the University College London Observatory on the evening of January 21.

To capitalize on this unusual event, astronomers have planned observations with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope and NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR), Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope, and Swift missions.

Links: Further information from the NASA press release; hi-res image from APOD January 24, 2014.

The European Space Agency’s billion-star surveyor, Gaia was launched into space on Thursday December 19, 2013, where it will embark on its mission to create a highly accurate 3D map of our galaxy. (See pp. 285, 290.)


Credit: ESA

By repeatedly observing a billion stars, with its billion-pixel video camera, the Gaia mission will allow astronomers to determine the origin and evolution of our galaxy whilst also testing gravity, mapping our inner Solar System, and uncovering tens of thousands of previously unseen objects, including asteroids in our Solar System, planets around nearby stars, and supernovae in other galaxies.

Gaia will map the stars from an orbit around the Sun, near a location some 1.5 million km beyond Earth’s orbit known as the L2 Lagrangian point. The spacecraft will spin slowly, sweeping its two telescopes across the entire sky and focusing their light simultaneously onto a single digital camera, the largest ever flown in space. The ‘eye’ of Gaia’s camera has the most sensitive set of light detectors ever assembled for a space mission.

Once Gaia starts routine operations, in late Spring 2014, astronomers will have the challenge of dealing with a flood of data. Even after being compressed by software, the data produced by the five-year mission will fill over 30,000 CD-ROMs!

The first Gaia science is expected to be discoveries of new sources – supernovae, extreme variable stars, and blazars.

Links: University of Leicester press release; ESA launch campaign blog and press release; ESA lift-off movie.