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E0102-72.3: Adding a New Dimension to an Old Explosion

  • E0102 is the debris of a very massive star that exploded in the neighboring galaxy known as the Small Magellanic Cloud

  • Chandra first looked at this object nearly ten years ago, just months after the telescope was launched

  • Analysis of new Chandra data gives information on the geometry of the supernova explosion

  • The best model based on the data is that the ejecta is shaped like a cylinder that we see end-on

This image of the debris of an exploded star — known as supernova remnant 1E 0102.2-7219, or "E0102" for short — features data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory. E0102 is located about 190,000 light years away in the Small Magellanic Cloud, one of the nearest galaxies to the Milky Way. It was created when a star that was much more massive than the Sun exploded, an event that would have been visible from the Southern Hemisphere of the Earth over 1000 years ago.

Chandra first observed E0102 shortly after its launch in 1999. New X-ray data have now been used to create this spectacular image and help celebrate the ten-year anniversary of Chandra's launch on July 23, 1999. In this latest image of E0102, the lowest-energy X-rays are colored orange, the intermediate range of X-rays is cyan, and the highest-energy X-rays Chandra detected are blue. An optical image from the Hubble Space Telescope (in red, green and blue) shows additional structure in the remnant and also reveals foreground stars in the field.

The Chandra image shows the outer blast wave produced by the supernova (blue), and an inner ring of cooler (red-orange) material. This inner ring is probably expanding ejecta from the explosion that is being heated by a shock wave traveling backwards into the ejecta. A massive star (not visible in this image) is illuminating the green cloud of gas and dust to the lower right of the image. This star may have similar properties to the one that exploded to form E0102.

Analysis of the Chandra spectrum gives astronomers new information about the geometry of the remnant, with implications for the nature of the explosion. The spectrum - which precisely separates X-rays of different energies - shows some material is moving away from Earth and some is moving toward us. When the material is moving away, its light is shifted toward the red end of the spectrum due to the so-called Doppler effect. Alternatively, when material is moving toward us, the light is bluer because of the same effect.

A clear separation was detected between the red-shifted and blue-shifted light, leading astronomers to think that the appearance of E0102 is best explained by a model in which the ejecta is shaped like a cylinder that is being viewed almost exactly end-on (see animation above). The smaller red and blue cylinders represent faster moving material closer to the cylinder axis.

This model suggests that the explosion that created the E0102 remnant may itself have been strongly asymmetric, consistent with the rapid kicks given to neutron stars after supernova explosions. Another possibility is that the star exploded into a disk of material formed when material was shed from the equator of the pre-supernova red giant star. Such asymmetries have been observed in winds from lower mass red giants that form planetary nebulas.

Fast Facts for E0102-72.3:
Credit  X-ray (NASA/CXC/MIT/D.Dewey et al. & NASA/CXC/SAO/J.DePasquale); Optical (NASA/STScI)
Release Date  July 23, 2009
Scale  Image is 2.85 arcmin across
Category  Supernovas & Supernova Remnants
Coordinates (J2000)  RA 01h 04m 1.50s | Dec -72° 01´ 55.7"
Constellation  Tucana
Observation Date  25 pointings between 12/10/2000 - 02/09/2008
Observation Time  3 days 6 hours
Obs. ID  1308, 1311, 1530-1531, 2843-2844, 2850-2851, 3519-3520, 3544-3545, 5123-5124, 5130-5131, 6042-6043, 6074-6075, 6758-6759, 6765, 8365, 9694
Instrument  ACIS/HETG
Also Known As SN010102-72
Color Code  X-ray (Blue, Cyan, Orange); Optical (Blue, Green, Red )
Distance Estimate  About 200,000 light years
distance arrow
Visitor Comments (15)

Wonderful and clear images! THANK YOU!

Posted by Mirna Sopranzi on Saturday, 05.11.13 @ 04:40am

Could anyone please explain to me how a spherical star acted on by gravity alone, produces an asymmetric outward explosion? No models to date have been able to achieve an outward explosion from a collapsing star. Anyone interested might want to study up on the Electric Universe theory, based on over 100 years of real experiments in plasma discharge phenomenon. Everything we observe going on with stars can be logically explained through the laws of electromagnetism, and can and is verified in laboratory experiments.

Posted by Birkeland on Thursday, 04.11.13 @ 09:13am


Posted by xavier on Tuesday, 07.13.10 @ 13:51pm

Go NASA, go, with all your excellent scientists, co-laborers from all over the world, astronauts etc. and let us learn about our universe, our world and ourselves. Seems that there is endless material to discover. I consider myself friend of yours.

Posted by arnold witting on Thursday, 04.1.10 @ 20:34pm

That is cool and amazing.

Posted by mr crespo on Saturday, 11.7.09 @ 14:47pm

Dear Biddie,
Observations and theory work in concert with each other. Often a model has to be constructed to explain an observation, but in other cases models will make a prediction and data is obtained to test this prediction. This feedback has occurred over many years, with continual refinement and embellishment of our theoretical understanding of the observed Universe.
Isaac Newton famously wrote "If I have seen further it is by standing on the
shoulders of giants."

P.Edmonds, CXC

Posted by P. Edmonds on Monday, 09.14.09 @ 15:01pm

Excellent photo, I love it.

Posted by Roko Mise on Saturday, 09.12.09 @ 11:36am

What amazes me is that the people working on this project find it possible to construct such a theory from the data collected by Chandra and Hubble, then construct a mathematical model that hopefully reasonably portrays the shape out there in space.

Or do they somehow allow the math to form some theory first and then go on from there?

I would be interested in a description of this process a light one please - I'm a non-techie.

Posted by Biddie Fisher on Saturday, 09.5.09 @ 10:34am

I feel really privileged to visit your site and update myself in this field. I thank you for giving us - the ordinary man - an opportunity to share discoveries relating to the stars. Thank you and best wishes.

Posted by ANIL KUMAR SHARMA on Thursday, 08.27.09 @ 11:08am

Very nice site.

Posted by Pharmg208 on Wednesday, 08.26.09 @ 19:45pm

Great pix and comments. Keep up the good work.

Posted by Eileen on Sunday, 07.26.09 @ 16:38pm

Thanks for let us see beyond of our solar system.

Posted by pedro on Saturday, 07.25.09 @ 18:59pm

Giving us the option to switch between visible light and x-ray display is great, it shows us which new views Chandra can give.

Posted by Joachim Otahal on Saturday, 07.25.09 @ 04:46am

This is a very impressive image.

Posted by Mark Ballington on Friday, 07.24.09 @ 09:23am

Is there anything more marvelous than the universe?

Posted by arnold witting on Thursday, 07.23.09 @ 16:30pm

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