Wednesday, November 22, 2006

NASA's Spitzer Peels Back Layers of Star's Explosion

NASA's Spitzer Peels Back Layers of Star's Explosion

Astronomers using NASA's infrared Spitzer Space Telescope have discovered that an exploded star, named Cassiopeia A, blew up in a somewhat orderly fashion, retaining much of its original onion-like layering.



Cassiopeia A – click for 800×800 image

Cassiopeia A, or Cas A for short, is what is known as a supernova remnant. The original star, about 15 to 20 times more massive than our sun, died in a cataclysmic "supernova" explosion relatively recently in our own Milky Way galaxy. Like all mature massive stars, the Cas A star was once neat and tidy, consisting of concentric shells made up of various elements. The star's outer skin consisted of lighter elements, such as hydrogen; its middle layers were lined with heavier elements like neon; and its core was stacked with the heaviest elements, such as iron.


Earlier (2004) press release on Cassiopeia A, with images: Deepest Image of Exploded Star Uncovers Bipolar Jets



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