Supernova explosions drive the chemical evolution of galaxies. Complex elements like oxygen, nitrogen, carbon, silicon and iron are cooked up in the interiors of dying stars, and supernovae distribute them into space. The supernova explosion itself can even transmute simple atoms into more complex ones. These complex elements can eventually join together to form molecules and solid dust particles, which can come together to form pebbles, rocks and perhaps eventually even rocky planets like earth. Understanding the details of how this process happens is an important step in understanding how planets form in the Universe. The image above shows the interesting results of the interaction showing how a supernova explosion interacts with its Galactic environment. This object goes by the prosaic name G54.1+0.3, and is an example of a pulsar wind nebula, a stream of energetic, X-ray emitting particles produced by the spinning neutron star (a pulsar) left behind when the star exploded. X-ray emission from the pulsar wind nebula is shown in blue in the image above, from the Chandra X-ray Observatory. A larger, cooler cloud of gas and dust surrounds the pulsar, as detailed in Infrared images by the Spitzer Space Telecopes, shown in red, green and yellow. Point-like sources embedded within the larger dust cloud may be young stars formed after the dust cloud was compressed by the supernova explosion. More recent studies, though, suggest that these sources are actually clouds of hot enriched dust produced by the supernova, with enough dust to make nearly 10,000 earths.
A new image from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and Spitzer Space Telescope shows the dusty remains of a collapsed star. The dust is flying past and engulfing a nearby family of stars. Scientists think the stars in the image are part of a stellar cluster in which the a supernova exploded. The material ejected in the explosion is now blowing past these stars at high velocities.
The composite image of G54.1+0.3 shows X-rays from Chandra in blue, and data from Spitzer in green (shorter wavelength infrared) and red-yellow (longer wavelength infrared). The white source near the center of the image is a dense, rapidly rotating neutron star, or "pulsar," left behind after a core-collapse supernova explosion. The pulsar generates a wind of high-energy particles -- seen in the Chandra data -- that expands into the surrounding environment, illuminating the material ejected in the supernova explosion.
The infrared shell that surrounds the pulsar wind is made up of gas and dust that condensed out of debris from the supernova. As the cold dust expands into the surroundings, it is heated and lit up by the stars in the cluster so that it is observable in the infrared. The dust closest to the stars is the hottest and is seen to glow in yellow in the image. Some of the dust is also being heated by the expanding pulsar wind as it overtakes the material in the shell. ...
Deep Chandra Observations of the Crab-like Pulsar Wind Nebula
G54.1+0.3 and Spitzer Spectroscopy of the Associated Infrared Shell ~ Tea Temim et al