Oldest-recorded supernova unveiled by XMM-Newton and Chandra
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Image courtesy of Jacco Vink (SRON Utrecht) and ESA.
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About this Image
The figure shows an XMM-Newton EPIC camera full field view of the supernova remnant RCW 86, with an inset of a close-up by Chandra. The age of the remnant derived by the investigators suggests that this supernova remnant is likely to be associated with SN 185, a supernova explosion 2000 years ago observed by Chinese astronomers. The image is false-coloured according to energy band, such that low energy (0.5-1 keV) photons are shown in red, medium energy (1.0-2.0 keV) photons are shown in green, and high energy (2.0-6.6) photons are shown in blue.
In a supernova the outer layers of a star are thrown off into space, which collide with the interstellar medium, creating the supernova remnant (SNR) and a shock front. The observed X-ray emission from this SNR can be divided into two types: thermal, caused by the material having undergone heating; and synchrotron, caused by the acceleration of high energy electrons in a magnetic field. Usually synchrotron processes give rise to radio emission, but in this case the radio emission is weak and the X-ray emission strong, indicating a high shock velocity. The progenitor star had a stellar wind, an outflow from the star which deposits a denser shell of material into space before the supernova explosion. The type of emission observed depends on whether the shock has reached the shell or not. See the reference for further details.
Investigator(s): Jacco Vink, Johan Bleeker, Kurt van der Heyden, Andrei Bykov, Aya Bamba, and Ryo Yamazaki
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