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: Image: Chandra's view of the Tycho Supernova remnant

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

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

Image: Chandra's view of the Tycho Supernova remnant

21 hours ago

More than four centuries after Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe first observed the supernova that bears his name, the supernova remnant it created is now a bright source of X-rays. The supersonic expansion of ...

Satellite galaxies put astronomers in a spin

Jul 24, 2014

An international team of researchers, led by astronomers at the Observatoire Astronomique de Strasbourg (CNRS/Université de Strasbourg), has studied 380 galaxies and shown that their small satellite galaxies almost always ...

Video: The diversity of habitable zones and the planets

Jul 24, 2014

The field of exoplanets has rapidly expanded from the exclusivity of exoplanet detection to include exoplanet characterization. A key step towards this characterization is the determination of which planets occupy the Habitable ...

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