An X-ray image from NASA’s Chandra Observatory has offered a glimpse into the ruins of a star that lit up the skies when it exploded 1,000 years ago. The scan could help us understand the huge explosions produced when stars die.
The supernova SN1006 was seen by astronomers in China, Japan, Europe and the Arab world in 1006.
On May 1, 1006, the explosion began to blaze so brightly it was visible during the day for weeks. Far brighter than Venus, it was reported as “casting shadows” by observers - despite being 7,000 light years from Earth.
Supernova experts have suggested that people could have read manuscripts by its light in spring 1006. Even now, a millennium later, parts of the cloud of debris are still moving at 11 million miles an hour.
Chandra’s X-ray telescope has looked inside the cloud of debris left by the ancient explosion - caused when a white dwarf star exploded, hurling its material into space.
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The image - which took eight whole days of viewing time on the space telescope - could help us understand more about supernova explosions.
The image is the most detailed “map” yet of Type 1a supernovas - caused when a white dwarf rips matter from a companion star and explodes, or when two white dwarfs collide. It could help scientists understand what the original star looked like, and what happened as it exploded.
These supernovas are used by astronomers to measure the how quickly the universe is expanding - used like “mileposts” to measure distances in space.
X-ray astronomy began 50 years ago, when scientists first launched instruments into space to observe the universe in wavelengths which ground-based telescopes couldn’t see.
SN1006 was detected by the first generation of X-Ray telescopes. The new Chandra image overlays 10 different views captured by Chandra.
By examining the different elements in the debris field -- such as silicon, oxygen, and magnesium - researchers may be able to piece together how the star looked before it exploded, and even model the explosion itself.
The fastest knots are moving outward at almost eleven million miles per hour, while those in other areas are moving at a more leisurely seven million miles per hour.