Infrared Echoes Dance Around Cassiopeia A

Stretching over 300 light-years from the supernova remnant 

Credits: NASA/Spitzer
Credits: NASA/Spitzer

Space news (astrophysics: supernovae; Cassiopeia A remnant) – 11,000 light-years from Earth toward the northern constellation Cassiopeia the Queen – 

On the day in 1667 when a brilliant new star appeared in the sky in Cassiopeia the Queen, no written account is left to tell of the stellar event. The supernova remnant left over is called Cassiopeia A. It consists of a neutron star, with the first carbon atmosphere ever detected, and an expanding shell of material that was ejected from the star as it contracted under its own mass. The progenitor star of this supernova remnant was a supermassive star estimated to be between 15 to 20 times as massive as Sol. 

The composite image of the Cassiopeia A supernova remnant seen above was made using six processed images taken over a three year period by NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope. It shows the largest light echoes ever detected at over 300 light-years in length, which were created as light from the explosion passed through clumps of dust surrounding the supernova remnant. This light illuminated and heated surrounding dust clumps, making them briefly glow in infrared, like a series of colored lights lighting up one after the other. This resulted in an optical illusion in which the dust appears to be traveling away from the remnant at the speed of light. This apparent motion is represented in this image by different dust colors, with dust features unchanged over time appearing gray, and changes in surrounding dust over time represented by blue or orange colors.  

Cassiopeia A supernova remnant. Credits? NASA/Hubble/Spitzer

Supernova remnant Cassiopeia A is the brightest radio emission source in the night sky above the frequency of 1 Gigahertz. It’s expanding shell of material reaches speeds above 5,000 km/s and temperatures as high as 50 million degrees Fahrenheit. First detected by Martin Ryle and Francis Graham-Smith in 1948, since this time it has become one of the most studied supernova remnants during the human journey to the beginning of space and time. 

For the first time, a multiwavelength three-dimensional reconstruction of a supernova remnant has been created in this stunning image of Cassiopeia A. Credits: NASA/Spitzer/Chandra/Kitt Peak

The startling false-color image above shows the many brilliant, stunning faces of the supernova remnant Cassiopeia A. Composed of images collected by three of the greatest space observatories in history, in three different wavebands of light. This view highlights the beauty hidden within one of the most violent events ever detected close by in the Milky Way. 

NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope infrared images used to create this stunning picture show warm dust in the outer shell of the supernova remnant Cassiopeia A highlighted in red. Hubble Space Telescope images added reveal delicate filaments of hot gas around 10,000 degrees Kelvin (18,000 degrees Fahrenheit) in yellow, while x-ray data collected by NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory is shown in green and blue. Look a little closer and deeper at the image and one sees hints of older infrared echoes from after the supernova hundreds of years ago.  

Learn more about Cassiopeia A

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View the cosmos in x-rays aboard NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory

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Learn and read about the incredible Polynesian islander navigators who used the stars, winds, current and other natural phenomena to colonize the islands of the Pacific Ocean tens of thousands of years ago.

The First Possible Cradle for a New Human Genesis?

Six exo-planets are circling red dwarf star Gliese 581 20 light-years distant in the constellation Libra

Astronomy News – The human search for an exoplanet capable of being a cradle for a new human genesis found what many consider the first exoplanet with the physical makeup to make it possible. A team of planet hunters from the University of California (UC) Santa Cruz and the Carnegie Institute of Washington recently announced to the world the discovery of an exoplanet they believe has a few characteristics of an exoplanet with the right stuff to make life possible. Gliese 581g, as it’s referred too, has about three times the mass of Earth and appears to be situated in the right spot in the solar system of the red dwarf star Gliese 581 for the ingredients of life to exist. This is about dead center in what planet scientists term the habitable zone of Gliese 581, a position planet scientists believe could make it possible for water and an atmosphere to exist on this exoplanet, necessary ingredients for the formation of life, planet scientists believe. 

Astronomers search for a cradle for a new human genesis

These planet hunters have been using one of the largest time-machine-to-the-stars on the planet, the Keck I Telescope in Hawaii’s W.M Keck Observatory, to journey 20 light years to the constellation of Libra to continue the search for more planets circling red dwarf star Gliese 581 that could be habitable. Planet hunters have been using the HIRES spectrometer to precisely measure the radial velocity of the host star – the motion of the star along the line of sight from Earth – and stars close to red dwarf star Gliese 581, in order to try to find other planets circling this red dwarf star. The gravitational pull of orbiting planets causes periodic changes in the radial velocity of the host star that astronomers can calculate using sophisticated mathematical techniques we’ll cover on another day. These are the techniques planet hunters used in order to find all of the stars they have found circling red dwarf star Gliese 581, which after the two most recent planet discoveries, brings the total to six exoplanets circling this distant star.

Astronomers believe Gliese 581g is in the habitable zone of its home star

The discovery of six exoplanets circling red dwarf star Gliese 581 marks the high-planet mark for the human hunt for planets capable of being a cradle for a new human genesis. Gliese 581g is the only planet of the six exoplanets discovered that astronomers have indicated, so far, as being in the life zone of the red dwarf star Gliese 581. This exoplanet orbits its parent star in about 37 days and measurements planet scientists have made of its mass indicates it’s probably a rocky planet with a definite surface and enough gravity to hang onto an atmosphere. Gliese 581g is also tidally locked to its parent star, which means that one side of the planet is always facing its host star and in perpetual daylight. This makes some planet scientists believe that the best place for life to exist would be in the terminator, the part of the planet between the day and night sides of the planet.
Is this how the day would look on the daylight side of Gliese 581g?


Is there water on Gliese 581g and an atmosphere? Planet scientists are currently trying to find out

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