The brightest objects of the Universe in three interactive dimensions

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The brightest objects of the Universe in three interactive dimensions
The brightest objects of the Universe in three interactive dimensions

Supernova explosions leave behind gas and dust nebulae of fantastic beauty - everyone remembers their photographs taken by Hubble and other telescopes. Would you like to go to supernovae to look inside and see how the explosion occurs? We invite you on this little journey: the methods of three-dimensional imaging have allowed astronomers to recreate these objects in virtual space. So, let's go.

Astronomers are coming up with new ways to study space objects. In particular, in order to overcome the "one-sidedness" of astronomical observations, due to which all radiation sources are visible only in a two-dimensional projection onto the plane of the sky, three-dimensional visualization methods were developed.

They are based on the fact that a detailed analysis of the data obtained often makes it possible to reconstruct the geometry, velocity, and other parameters of the emitting body.

Such models are of particular interest for the most extreme objects in which sharp changes in physical characteristics are observed in space and time. Often, such sources are best seen in the short-wavelength part of the spectrum, such as in X-rays.

Scientists use such models to better understand the ongoing processes, but they can be admired from a purely aesthetic point of view. Below are six 3D renderings based on data from the Chandra space observatory and other similar instruments.


The main characters of this material are in pictures from the Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes and other instruments. From left to right and top to bottom: Supernova remnant of 1006, supernova 1987A in the Magellanic Cloud, Cassiopeia A, nova U Scorpio, supernova Tycho Brahe and jets of DG Taurus

Chandra was launched in 1999 and became the third in a series of NASA's "Large Observatories" created at the turn of the century. It works with wavelengths from 0, 12 to 12 nanometers (photon energies from 0, 1 to 10 keV) and has a record angular resolution of 0.5 arc seconds for the X-ray range.

Despite its considerable age for a spacecraft, Chandra continues to work and produce new data for scientists.

The imaging data was created by astrophysicist Salvatore Orlando of the Italian National Astrophysical Institute.

Salvatore specializes in resource-intensive numerical models in the context of astrophysics, which allow solving problems related to magnetohydrodynamics of the plasma of the solar corona and other luminaries, protostars, novae and supernovae, and the occurrence of cosmic rays.

DG Taurus

DG Tauri belongs to the classic T Tauri stars - young objects no older than several million years.

It is located at a distance of 140 parsecs from Earth in the star-forming region in the constellation Taurus - in the same place as the prototype star of this entire class of variables. The jets of this source are observed up to a distance of thousands of astronomical units.

According to modern concepts, this variable source is a not yet fully formed protostar, on which the mother is actively settling, circling around her in the form of a disk.

The interaction of the falling matter and the rotating central body leads to the formation of narrow jets of matter - jets, firing from the magnetic poles of the nascent star. Inside these fast streams, shock waves arise, which shine in the hard range of the electromagnetic spectrum.

Cassiopeia A

Massive stars end the main stage of their existence in the form of a supernova explosion, after which a compact central object (neutron star or black hole) remains, and the expanding envelope forms a supernova remnant.

On short radio waves, Cassiopeia A is the brightest object in the night sky. It is located at a distance of 3.4 kiloparsecs in the plane of the Milky Way, and from Earth is visible inside the asterism of five stars in the shape of the letter W, according to which the constellation Cassiopeia is easy to find in the summer sky of the Northern Hemisphere.

It is believed that the light from the outbreak of this supernova reached us about 300 years ago, but no suitable observations can be found in the records of contemporaries.

Since the explosion does not occur absolutely symmetrically, the shells forming the remainder turn out to be of variable thickness.

X-ray measurements of the velocities of iron, silicon and sulfur ions allowed astrophysicists to associate the observed asymmetry of this supernova remnant with clumps that formed shortly after the catastrophic event.

U Scorpio

Astronomers distinguish a class of objects called novae, capable of becoming tens or hundreds of times brighter, and then gradually fade away to their original values. Today we know that such sources have nothing to do with the birth of new luminaries, although scientists continue to use the historical name.

The new ones are binary systems of a white dwarf and an ordinary star, and the matter of the latter gradually flows over and accumulates on the surface of a denser dwarf. After reaching a critical density, matter on the surface of such a star explodes, which leads to a sharp jump in luminosity.

Repeated novae are quite rare - U Scorpio is only one of 10 similar objects in our Galaxy. In a calm state, its stellar magnitude is 18, and during an outburst it reaches 8.

New U Scorpio refers to repeated - it flares up about every ten years. The presented model reproduces the distribution of matter 18 hours after the 2010 outbreak.

This new one is the most thoroughly studied, since astronomers prepared in advance for its outbreak in 2010. The next spike in activity is predicted within two years.

Supernova 1006

This rendering shows a supernova remnant whose light reached Earth in 1006.

SN 1006 exploded in the constellation Wolf, which is best seen from Earth's southern hemisphere. Because of this situation, its appearance remained almost unnoticed by the inhabitants of Europe, but there is a lot of documentary evidence of the observations of the object on the territory of China, Japan, Mesopotamia and Egypt. There is also a hypothesis that it was imprinted on the stones by the Indians of North America.

Extensive searches for point objects in the area of the center of the explosion were unsuccessful, from which astronomers conclude that most likely this supernova was generated by the merger of two white dwarfs.

Such models allow scientists to better understand the formation of inhomogeneities in the expanding shell. Accurate determination of the parameters of the remnant, in turn, makes it possible to estimate the efficiency of acceleration of cosmic ray particles repeatedly reflected from shock waves.

In this case, the entire shell glows in X-rays, since the model describes the first seconds after the explosion, when the temperature of the substance is measured in millions of degrees.

Supernova 1987A

At its maximum brightness, supernova 1987A reached the brightness of the third magnitude star, that is, it was confidently visible with the naked eye, despite being located outside the Milky Way at a distance of 51.7 kiloparsecs. It is believed that its predecessor was a star 17 times more massive than the Sun.

1987A is of particular importance to astronomers: it is the only relatively close supernova that was observable during the era of large telescopes and high-precision radiation detectors.

It flared up in 1987 in the Large Magellanic Cloud, that is, it was visible only from the southern hemisphere of the Earth. The close distance to us allows us to study this remnant in more detail, thanks to which it will be possible to build even more accurate models of the explosions of stars and the final stages of their evolution.

For many years it was the only identified extrasolar neutrino source. An active study of the object continues to this day.

Supernova Quiet

This source belongs to type Ia supernovae associated with the thermonuclear detonation of carbon in a white dwarf and the subsequent complete destruction of the star.

Observers on Earth recorded the light of this flash in November 1572. It got its well-known name in honor of the outstanding 16th century Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe, who observed this object and described its properties in detail.

Supernova Tycho's position in the constellation Cassiopeia has provided it with close attention from many observers throughout Europe. Moreover, it was one of only eight supernovae that flared up during the existence of human civilization, visible to the naked eye.

At the peak of its luminosity, it was several times brighter than Sirius, so that it was hard not to notice it. Today, its remnant is observed in many ranges, and its exact type was possible to establish thanks to the observation of a light echo, that is, a signal reflected from the surrounding interstellar dust that reached Earth with a delay of more than 400 years.

This visualization reconstructs the supernova remnant a thousand after the explosion - that is, in the form in which it will be observed from Earth in 2572. For better visibility, a quarter of the shell is made transparent.