Image: Exploring the third dimension of Cassiopeia A

November 18, 2013
Credit: NASA/CXC/SAO

(Phys.org) —One of the most famous objects in the sky - the Cassiopeia A supernova remnant - will be on display like never before, thanks to NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and a new project from the Smithsonian Institution. A new three-dimensional (3D) viewer, being unveiled this week, will allow users to interact with many one-of-a-kind objects from the Smithsonian as part of a large-scale effort to digitize many of the Institutions objects and artifacts.

Scientists have combined data from Chandra, NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, and ground-based facilities to construct a unique 3D model of the 300-year old remains of a stellar explosion that blew a massive star apart, sending the stellar debris rushing into space at millions of miles per hour. The collaboration with this new Smithsonian 3D project will allow the astronomical data collected on Cassiopeia A, or Cas A for short, to be featured and highlighted in an open-access program—a major innovation in digital technologies with public, education, and research-based impacts.

To coincide with Cas A being featured in this new 3D effort, a specially-processed version of Chandra's data of this supernova remnant is also being released. This new image shows with better clarity the appearance of Cas A in different energy bands, which will aid astronomers in their efforts to reconstruct details of the supernova process such as the size of the star, its chemical makeup, and the explosion mechanism. The color scheme used in this image is the following: low-energy X-rays are red, medium-energy ones are green, and the highest-energy X-rays detected by Chandra are colored blue.

Cas A is the only astronomical object to be featured in the new Smithsonian 3D project. This and other objects in the collection - including the Wright brothers plane, a 1,600-year-old stone Buddha, a gunboat from the Revolutionary War, and fossil whales from Chile—were being showcased in the Smithsonian X 3D event, taking place on November 13th and 14th at the Smithsonian in Washington, DC. In addition to new state-of-the-art 3D viewer, the public will be able to explore these objects through original videos, online tours, and other supporting materials.

Cas A is the only supernova remnant to date to be modeled in 3D. In order to create this visualization, unique software that links the fields of astrophysics and medical imaging (known as "astronomical medicine") was used. Since its initial release in 2009, the 3D model has proven a rich resource for scientists as well as an effective tool for communicating science to the public. Providing this newly formatted data in an open source framework with finely-tuned contextual materials will greatly broaden awareness and participation for general public, teacher, student and researcher audiences.

Explore further: Cassiopeia A Comes Alive Across Time and Space

Related Stories

Cassiopeia A Comes Alive Across Time and Space

January 6, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Two new efforts have taken a famous supernova remnant from the static to the dynamic. A new movie of data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory shows changes in time never seen before in this type of object. ...

A star explodes, turns inside-out

March 29, 2012

(PhysOrg.com) -- A new X-ray study of the remains of an exploded star indicates that the supernova that disrupted the massive star may have turned it inside out in the process. Using very long observations of Cassiopeia A ...

Preserving the legacy of the X-ray universe

October 29, 2013

Every year, October is designated as American Archive Month. While many people may think "archive" means only dusty books and letters, there are, in fact, many other types of important archives. This includes the use of archives ...

Smithsonian makes push in 3D imaging of artifacts

November 13, 2013

With most of its 137 million objects kept behind the scenes or in a faraway museum, the Smithsonian Institution, the world's largest museum complex, is launching a new 3D scanning and printing initiative to make more of its ...

Recommended for you

Astronomers detect the farthest galaxy yet with Keck telescope

September 4, 2015

A team of Caltech researchers that has spent years searching for the earliest objects in the universe now reports the detection of what may be the most distant galaxy ever found. In an article published August 28, 2015 in Astrophysical ...

Prawn Nebula: Cosmic recycling

September 2, 2015

Dominating this image is part of the nebula Gum 56, illuminated by the hot bright young stars that were born within it. For millions of years stars have been created out of the gas in this nebula, material which is later ...

0 comments

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.