An Oxygen Factory in a Nearby Galaxy

March 17, 2008
An Oxygen Factory in a Nearby Galaxy
Image credit: NASA/CXC/NCSU/K.J.Borkowski et al.

This Chandra X-ray Observatory image shows the debris of a massive star explosion in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a small galaxy about 160,000 light years from Earth.

The supernova remnant (SNR) shown here, N132D, is the brightest in the Magellanic clouds, and belongs to a rare class of oxygen-rich remnants. Most of the oxygen that we breathe on Earth is thought to have come from explosions similar to this one.

The colors in this image show low energy X-rays (red), intermediate energy X-rays (green) and high energy X-rays (blue). Substantial amounts of oxygen are detected in this image, particularly in the green regions near the center of the image.

The location of these oxygen-rich areas, detected in the Chandra image, is generally well matched with the oxygen-rich areas detected in Hubble Space Telescope images (not shown here). However, the expanding, ellipse-shaped shell of oxygen seen in N132D is not seen in either G292.0+1.8 or Puppis A, two oxygen-rich SNRs in the galaxy with similar ages to N132D (about 3,000 years, ten times older than Cas A).

The origin of this shell is unknown, but it might have been created by a `nickel bubble' shortly after the supernova explosion, caused by radioactive energy input from nickel that was created by the explosion. The existence of such bubbles is predicted by theoretical work.

The ultimate goal of these observations is to constrain the mass of the star that exploded and to learn more about how massive stars explode and spread heavy elements like oxygen into surrounding space.

Source: NASA

Explore further: Image: Coronal mass ejection creates spooky Halloween sky

Related Stories

Image: Coronal mass ejection creates spooky Halloween sky

October 27, 2015

Eerie sheets and ripples of green hang above a deserted rocky landscape in this spooky Space Science Image of the Week. Spikes of neon and emerald seem to form the ominous form of a ghostly celestial eagle, with a sharp beak, ...

What's it like to see auroras on other planets?

November 10, 2015

Witnessing an aurora first-hand is a truly awe-inspiring experience. The natural beauty of the northern or southern lights captures the public imagination unlike any other aspect of space weather. But auroras aren't unique ...

The modern, molecular hunt for the world's biodiversity

October 27, 2015

The news is full of announcements about newly discovered forms of life. This fall, we learned of a 30,000-year-old giant virus found in frozen Siberia. Until now, known viruses have contained so little genetic information ...

Recommended for you

Aging star's weight loss secret revealed

November 25, 2015

A team of astronomers using ESO's Very Large Telescope has captured the most detailed images ever of the hypergiant star VY Canis Majoris. These observations show how the unexpectedly large size of the particles of dust surrounding ...

Scientists detect stellar streams around Magellanic Clouds

November 23, 2015

(—Astronomers from the University of Cambridge, U.K., have detected a number of narrow streams and diffuse debris clouds around two nearby irregular dwarf galaxies called the Magellanic Clouds. The research also ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.