NASA Provides a Look Into the Evolution of Cassiopeia A Supernova Remnant in New Video

A new video released by NASA's Chandra X-Ray shows the evolution of the supernova remnant Cassiopeia A.
Donna Fuscaldo

NASA's Chandra X-Ray Observatory has been capturing images of outer space for more than twenty years now, but the images of the supernova remnant Cassiopeia A could go down in history as one of the most iconic of them all. 

Known as Cas A the supernova remnant is 11,000 light-years from Earth and is the result of a large star that exploded in 1680. The Chandra X-Ray Observatory first captured Cas A, the brightly glowing field of debris in 1999, which was featured in the observatory's "First Light" image released in August of 1999. The image revealed for the first time ever a neutron star that the supernova left behind. Since that revelation in 1999 Chandra has returned to Cas A on a number of occasions to learn more about the explosion.


New video shows the evolution of Cas A for more than a decade 

A new video shows the evolution of Cas A from 2000 to 2013, enabling viewers to observe the hot gas which is around 20 million degrees Fahrenheit expand outward. The video gives viewers a bird's eye view of what happened to Cas A over the course of thirteen years. While it's not as dramatic as the changes a child goes through over that time frame, it eye-opening to see a cosmic object change over time. 

In the video, the blue outer region of Cas A shows the blast wave of the explosion, which is made up of shock waves. The expanding shock waves move at speeds of 11 million miles per hour but slow down as it encounters material, which results in a second shock wave called a reverse shock. The shockwave travels backward to get away from the collision.

Reverse shocks in Cas A fast-moving 

While the reverse shocks are typically slower than the blast wave, a group of astronomers led by  Toshiki Sato from RIKEN in Saitama, Japan, and NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, found reverse shocks in Cas A that are bright and moving fast at speed of between 5 and 9 million miles per hour. 

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The latest study and video of Cas A it's just the latest in a growing collection of discoveries the X-Ray has produced. Chandra data has provided clues as to how the star exploded and revealed that elements that are essential for life came out of the explosion. 

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