A Super-Efficient Particle Accelerator

Jul 01, 2009

This image of data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope shows a part of the roughly circular supernova remnant known as RCW 86.

This remnant is the remains of an exploded star, which may have been observed on Earth in 185 AD by Chinese astronomers. By studying this remnant, a team of astronomers was able to understand new details about the role of remnants as the Milky Way's super-efficient particle accelerators.

The team shows that the shock wave visible in this area is very efficient at accelerating particles and the energy used in this process matches the number of cosmic rays observed on Earth.

The VLT data (colored red in the composite) was used to measure the temperature of the gas right behind the shock wave created by the stellar explosion. Using X-ray images from Chandra (blue), taken three years apart, the researchers were also able to determine the speed of the shock wave to be between one and three percent of the speed of light. The temperature found by these latest results is much lower than expected, given the measured shock wave's velocity. The researchers conclude that the missing energy goes into accelerating the .

Image credits: Optical: ESO/E. Helder; X-ray: NASA/CXC/Univ. of Utrecht/J.Vink et al.

Provided by NASA

Explore further: Planet formation relied on sweeping up of small glassy beads, new model suggests

Related Stories

Chandra discovers relativistic pinball machine

Nov 15, 2006

New clues about the origins of cosmic rays, mysterious high-energy particles that bombard the Earth, have been revealed using NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory. An extraordinarily detailed image of the remains ...

W28: A Mixed Bag of Supernova Remnant

Jun 04, 2008

When some stars die, they explode as supernovas and their debris fields (aka, "supernova remnants") expand into the surrounding environments. There are several different types, or categories, of supernova ...

Supernova 1987A: Fast Forward to the Past

Aug 18, 2005

Recent Chandra observations have revealed new details about the fiery ring surrounding the stellar explosion that produced Supernova 1987A. The data give insight into the behavior of the doomed star in the ...

Recommended for you

White dwarf may have shredded passing planet

Apr 17, 2015

The destruction of a planet may sound like the stuff of science fiction, but a team of astronomers has found evidence that this may have happened in an ancient cluster of stars at the edge of the Milky Way ...

Giant galaxies die from the inside out

Apr 16, 2015

A major astrophysical mystery has centred on how massive, quiescent elliptical galaxies, common in the modern Universe, quenched their once furious rates of star formation. Such colossal galaxies, often also ...

Protosuns teeming with prebiotic molecules

Apr 16, 2015

Complex organic molecules such as formamide, from which sugars, amino acids and even nucleic acids essential for life can be made, already appear in the regions where stars similar to our Sun are born. Astrophysicists ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

omatumr
1 / 5 (1) Jul 02, 2009
ACCELERATED BY MAGNETIC FIELD OF NEUTRON STAR?

The magnetic field of a neutron star may accelerate protons away from a supernova remnant.

This may also be the mechanism that maintains mass separation in the Sun by generating a carrier gas of protons moving upward from the solar core ["Superfluidity in the solar interior: Implications for solar eruptions and climate," Journal of Fusion Energy 21 (2002) 193-198; http://arxiv.org/...501441v1 ].

With kind regards,
Oliver K. Manuel
http://www.omatumr.com

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.