A star's spectacular death in the constellation Taurus was observed on Earth as the supernova of 1054 A.D. Now, almost a thousand years later, a super dense object -- called a neutron star -- left behind by the explosion is seen spewing out a blizzard of high-energy particles into the expanding debris field known as the Crab Nebula. X-ray data from Chandra provide significant clues to the workings of this mighty cosmic "generator," which is producing energy at the rate of 100,000 suns.
We've decided to introduce a new, intermittent series to the Chandra blog. From time to time, we'll dig into our vast archive of questions submitted by the public and post the answers written by experts at the Chandra X-ray Center. Some of these will be Chandra-specific or at least X-ray astronomy related. Others, well, they'll be somewhat random. Enjoy.
Leisa Townsley has long been a favorite of the Chandra team. Not only does she do really interesting science, she creates some truly spectacular images that we get to share with the public. Leisa is a Senior Scientist at Penn State University. Keep your eyes open for some more gorgeous Chandra images from Leisa and her colleagues, as well as new science results, in the not-so-distant future.
This Chandra X-ray Observatory image shows the central region of the supernova remnant Cassiopeia A (Cas A, for short) the remains of a massive star that exploded in our galaxy. Evidence for a thin carbon atmosphere on a neutron star at the center of Cas A has been found. Besides resolving a ten-year-old mystery about the nature of this object, this result provides a vivid demonstration of the extreme nature of neutron stars. An artist's impression of the carbon-cloaked neutron star is also shown.
As the Chandra Source Catalog was being finalized for release (documents updated, final verifications being performed, etc.) we had some time to try a little experiment:
As part of the Catalog, we produce so-called "3-color" JPEG images: red representing low energy, green = medium energy, and blue = high energy. We thought it would be interesting to learn enough of the Keyhole Markup Language (kml) to enable these images to be viewed with Google Earth in its Sky mode.
This is a composite image of the most distant galaxy cluster yet detected. This image contains X-rays from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory, optical data from the Very Large Telescope (VLT) and optical and infrared data from the Digitized Sky Survey. This record-breaking object, known as JKCS041, is observed as it was when the Universe was just one quarter of its current age. X-rays from Chandra are displayed here as the diffuse blue region, while the individual galaxies in the cluster are seen in white in the VLT's optical data, embedded in the X-ray emission.
From time to time in the Chandra blog, we like to give a look at the behind the scenes of how things really work around here. As you may suspect, it takes a lot of effort from many, many people to make this mission a success. One area we haven't delved into too much yet is the "data analysis" and other herculean efforts that are required to make the Chandra data as useful and user-friendly as possible to the scientific community.
We've spent a lot of time lately talking about the past 10 years. This has been for an excellent reason, of course: the observatory and the scientists that use it have just done so many great things.
But we don't want to spend too much energy looking back, because there are so many exciting things are still very much in front of us. We recently sat down with some of the best and brightest scientists who are using Chandra and will take the science into its next decade of discovery. We'll share some of those conversations with you here. We hope you sense, like we do, that the best may yet to come.
Yesterday, the Nobel Prize for Physics was announced by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. As they often do, the Academy split the prize, with one half being shared by two scientists - William S. Boyle and George E. Smith - for their work on CCD sensors.
William S. Boyle (left) and George E. Smith in a shot taken in 1974.
© Alcatel-Lucent/Bell Labs
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