They don’t call him A excellent-Nova for nothing.
Just in time for the holidays, NASA has released dazzling images of an exploding star that looks eerily similar to a shiny ornament floating atop a Christmas tree.
The stunning new image of Cassiopeia A (Cas A), which lies approximately 11,000 light-years from Earth and is one of the most well-studied supernova remnants, was captured by the agency’s famous James Webb Space Telescope.
The telescope’s advanced near-infrared camera technology captured the exploding star with a previously unattainable resolution.
“Thanks to the resolution of NIRCam, we can now see how the dying star completely shattered as it exploded, leaving behind filaments that look like tiny glass shards,” says Dani Milisavljevic of Purdue University, who leads the research team. He said in a statement.
“It is truly incredible that after all these years of studying Cas A we can now resolve these details, which provide us with transformative insight into how this star exploded.”
In the new NIRCam image, the colors of Cas A’s infrared light have been translated into colors that were previously invisible to the human eye, allowing researchers to observe details that had never been seen before.
It is noteworthy that the bright orange and light pink clumps that make up the supernova’s inner shell have been detected, indicating the “tiniest knot of gas” that will one day form new stars and planetary systems.
The edges of Cas A’s inner shell – which exploded about 340 years ago from our view – also lit up in deep orange and red in a shape resembling smoke in a campfire.
One aspect that has puzzled researchers so far is the huge ring of green light that glowed bright green in the mid-infrared but disappeared under the NIRCam.
The ionized gas, nicknamed the “Green Monster,” is likely the result of supernova debris that rushed through and formed the gas left behind by the star before it exploded.
Additionally, NASA scientists were “absolutely astounded” when they found a bubble in the lower right corner of the camera view that “appears to be the descendant of the main supernova.”
NASA said Baby Cas A is located about 170 light-years behind the supernova remnant, and is a light echo, where light from the star’s explosion arrived long ago and is heating distant dust.
The stunning new images are the latest in a series taken by the Webb Telescope since it became operational last year.
One of the many celebratory photos it released showed a colorful close-up of dozens of stars at their birth, while another captured the final “performance” of a dying star in insane detail.
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