[SatNews] NASA has released four new images of supernova remnants, showing spectacular cosmic vistas that are the glowing debris fields created when massive stars exploded at the ends of their lives.
The images released are of the supernova remnants of the Crab Nebula, Tycho, G292.0+1.8, and 3C58. These supernova remnants are very hot and energetic and glow brightly in X-ray light, which allows Chandra to capture them in exquisite detail. Chandra orbits far above Earth's X-ray absorbing atmosphere at an altitude up to 139,000 km (86,500 mi), allowing for long observations unobscured by Earth's shadow. When it was carried into space in 1999, it was the largest satellite ever launched by the shuttle.
Chandra, one of NASA's current "Great Observatories," along with the Hubble Space Telescope and Spitzer Space Telescope, is specially designed to detect X-ray emission from hot and energetic regions of the universe. Since its deployment on July 23, 1999 aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia, Chandra has helped revolutionize our understanding of the universe through its unrivaled X-ray vision.
"Chandra changed the way we do astronomy,” said NASA's Astrophysics Division Director Paul Hertz in Washington. “It showed that precision observation of the X-rays from cosmic sources is critical to understanding what is going on. We're fortunate we've had 15 years – so far – to use Chandra to advance our understanding of stars, galaxies, black holes, dark energy, and the origin of the elements necessary for life."
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 has also 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.
"We are thrilled at how well Chandra continues to perform," said Director of the Chandra X-ray Center (CXC) Belinda Wilkes in Cambridge, Massachusetts. "The science and operations teams work very hard to ensure that Chandra delivers its astounding results, just as it has for the past decade and a half. We are looking forward to more ground-breaking science over the next decade and beyond."
Originally called the Advanced X-ray Astrophysics Facility (AXAF), the telescope was first proposed to NASA in 1976. Prior to its launch aboard the shuttle, the observatory was renamed in honor of the late Indian-American Nobel laureate, Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar. Known to the world as Chandra (which means "moon" or "luminous" in Sanskrit), he was widely regarded as one of the foremost astrophysicists of the 20th century.
"Chandra continues to be one of the most successful missions that NASA has ever flown as measured against any metric—cost, schedule, technical success and, most of all, scientific discoveries," said Chandra Project Scientist Martin Weisskopf at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. "It has been a privilege to work on developing and maintaining this scientific powerhouse, and we look forward to many years to come."
For Chandra images, multimedia and related materials, please visit Chandra’s webpage on NASA’s website.