Supernova Shock Waves, Neutron Stars, and Lobsters

MSH 11-62 and G327.1-1.1*

A supernova that signals the death of a massive star sends titanic shock waves rumbling through interstellar space. An ultra-dense neutron star is usually left behind, which is far from dead, as it spews out a blizzard of high-energy particles. Two new images from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory provide fascinating views - including an enigmatic lobster-like feature - of the complex aftermath of a supernova.

When a massive star runs out of fuel resulting in a supernova explosion, the central regions usually collapse to form a neutron star. The energy generated by the formation of the neutron star triggers a supernova. As the outward-moving shock wave sweeps up interstellar gas, a reverse shock wave is driven inward, heating the stellar ejecta.

Meanwhile, the rapid rotation and intense magnetic field of the neutron star, a.k.a. a pulsar, combine to generate a powerful wind of high-energy particles. This so-called pulsar wind nebula can glow brightly in X-rays and radio waves.

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-Megan Watzke, CXC

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