All Eyes on Oldest Recorded Supernova

Wise_wise2011-028b_500

WISE_WISE2011-028b October 24th, 2011

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/B. Williams (NCSU)

This image combines data from four different space telescopes to create a multi-wavelength view of all that remains of the oldest documented example of a supernova, called RCW 86. The Chinese witnessed the event in 185 A.D., documenting a mysterious "guest star" that remained in the sky for eight months. X-ray images from the European Space Agency's XMM-Newton Observatory and NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory are combined to form the blue and green colors in the image. The X-rays show the interstellar gas that has been heated to millions of degrees by the passage of the shock wave from the supernova.

Infrared data from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, as well as NASA's Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) are shown in yellow and red, and reveal dust radiating at a temperature of several hundred degrees below zero, warm by comparison to normal dust in our Milky Way galaxy.

By studying the X-ray and infrared data together, astronomers were able to determine that the cause of the explosion witnessed nearly 2,000 years ago was a Type Ia supernova, in which an otherwise-stable white dwarf, or dead star, was pushed beyond the brink of stability when a companion star dumped material onto it. Furthermore, scientists used the data to solve another mystery surrounding the remnant -- how it got to be so large in such a short amount of time. By blowing a wind prior to exploding, the white dwarf was able to clear out a huge "cavity," a region of very low-density surrounding the system. The explosion into this cavity was able to expand much faster than it otherwise would have.

This is the first time that this type of cavity has been seen around a white dwarf system prior to explosion. Scientists say the results may have significant implications for theories of white-dwarf binary systems and Type Ia supernovae.

RCW 86 is approximately 8,000 light-years away. At about 85 light-years in diameter, it occupies a region of the sky in the southern constellation of Circinus that is slightly larger than the full moon.

Image Source: /image/WISE/WISE2011-028b

Curator: Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, Berkeley, CA, USA

Image Use Policy: Pulic Domain

Image Details

Image Type
Observation
Object Name
RCW 86
Subject - Milky Way
Nebula » Type » Supernova Remnant

Distance

Universescale1
8,200 light years
Wise_wise2011-028b_128
 

Position Details

Position (ICRS)
RA = 14h 43m 0.7s
DEC = -62° 27’ 47.3”
Orientation
North is up
Field of View
1.1 x 0.8 degrees
Constellation
Circinus

Color Mapping

  Telescope Spectral Band Wavelength
Arrow_left_blue XMM (EPIC) X-ray 282.0 pm
Arrow_left_blue XMM (EPIC) X-ray 827.0 pm
Arrow_left_green XMM (EPIC) X-ray 1.65 nm
Arrow_left_blue Chandra (ACIS) X-ray 282.0 pm
Arrow_left_blue Chandra (ACIS) X-ray 827.0 pm
Arrow_left_green Chandra (ACIS) X-ray 1.65 nm
Arrow_left_yellow WISE Infrared (Mid-IR) 12.0 µm
Arrow_left_red WISE Infrared (Mid-IR) 22.0 µm
Arrow_left_red Spitzer (MIPS) Infrared (Mid-IR) 2.4 µm
For X-ray data: XMM-Newton covers most of remnant with Chandra replacing missing coverage on the ridge on the left side. For infrared data: WISE covers the field with its 22 micron data replaced with Spitzer's 24 micron observations across the remnant.
Spectrum_xray1
Arrow_top_blue
Arrow_top_blue
Arrow_top_green
Arrow_top_blue
Arrow_top_blue
Arrow_top_green
Arrow_top_yellow
Arrow_top_red
Arrow_top_red
Wise_wise2011-028b_1280
×
ID
WISE2011-028b
Subject Category
B.4.1.4  
Subject Name
RCW 86
Credits
NASA/JPL-Caltech/B. Williams (NCSU)
Lightyears
8,200
Redshift
Reference Url
/image/WISE/WISE2011-028b
Type
Observation
Image Quality
Good
Distance Notes
Facility
XMM, XMM, XMM, Chandra, Chandra, Chandra, WISE, WISE, Spitzer
Instrument
EPIC, EPIC, EPIC, ACIS, ACIS, ACIS, -, -, MIPS
Color Assignment
Blue, Blue, Green, Blue, Blue, Green, Yellow, Red, Red
Band
X-ray, X-ray, X-ray, X-ray, X-ray, X-ray, Infrared, Infrared, Infrared
Bandpass
-, -, -, -, -, -, Mid-IR, Mid-IR, Mid-IR
Central Wavelength
0.282, 0.827, 1.65, 0.282, 0.827, 1.65, 12000, 22000, 2400
Start Time
Integration Time
Dataset ID
Notes
F
Coordinate Frame
ICRS
Equinox
Reference Value
220.7530113253541, -62.463133380283423
Reference Dimension
2811, 2154
Reference Pixel
1405, 1077
Scale
-0.0003819444391411, 0.0003819444391411
Rotation
0.0
Coordinate System Projection:
TAN
Quality
Full
FITS Header
Notes
Creator (Curator)
Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer
URL
http://wise.astro.ucla.edu
Name
Email
outreach@ssl.berkeley.edu
Telephone
Address
7 Gauss Way
City
Berkeley
State/Province
CA
Postal Code
94720
Country
USA
Rights
Pulic Domain
Publisher
Publisher ID
WISE
Resource ID
Resource URL
/image/WISE/WISE2011-028b
Related Resources
Metadata Date
2012-10-10 19:04:43 -0700
Metadata Version
1.2
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Detailed color mapping information coming soon...

 

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Universescalefull
8,200 light years