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Cassiopeia A: Exploring the Third Dimension of Cassiopeia A

  • Cassiopeia A (Cas A for short) is the debris field left behind after a massive star exploded.

  • This explosion would have appeared in Earth's sky over 300 years ago.

  • A new image from Chandra's deep data of Cas A is being released that improves the appearance of the different bands of X-rays.

  • This image and a 3D model of the explosion are being featured in a new 3D project at the Smithsonian Institution.

One of the most famous objects in the sky - the Cassiopeia A supernova remnant - will be on display like never before, thanks to NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and a new project from the Smithsonian Institution. A new three-dimensional (3D) viewer, being unveiled this week, will allow users to interact with many one-of-a-kind objects from the Smithsonian as part of a large-scale effort to digitize many of the Institutions objects and artifacts.

Scientists have combined data from Chandra, NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, and ground-based facilities to construct a unique 3D model of the 300-year old remains of a stellar explosion that blew a massive star apart, sending the stellar debris rushing into space at millions of miles per hour. The collaboration with this new Smithsonian 3D project will allow the astronomical data collected on Cassiopeia A, or Cas A for short, to be featured and highlighted in an open-access program -- a major innovation in digital technologies with public, education, and research-based impacts.

To coincide with Cas A being featured in this new 3D effort, a specially-processed version of Chandra's data of this supernova remnant is also being released. This new image shows with better clarity the appearance of Cas A in different energy bands, which will aid astronomers in their efforts to reconstruct details of the supernova process such as the size of the star, its chemical makeup, and the explosion mechanism. The color scheme used in this image is the following: low-energy X-rays are red, medium-energy ones are green, and the highest-energy X-rays detected by Chandra are colored blue.

Seeing around

Cas A is the only astronomical object to be featured in the new Smithsonian 3D project. This and other objects in the collection - including the Wright brothers plane, a 1,600-year-old stone Buddha, a gunboat from the Revolutionary War, and fossil whales from Chile -- were showcased in the Smithsonian X 3D event, taking place on November 13th and 14th at the Smithsonian in Washington, DC. In addition to new state-of-the-art 3D viewer, the public will be able to explore these objects through original videos, online tours, and other supporting materials.

Cas A is the only supernova remnant to date to be modeled in 3D. In order to create this visualization, unique software that links the fields of astrophysics and medical imaging (known as "astronomical medicine") was used. Since its initial release in 2009, the 3D model has proven a rich resource for scientists as well as an effective tool for communicating science to the public. Providing this newly formatted data in an open source framework with finely-tuned contextual materials will greatly broaden awareness and participation for general public, teacher, student and researcher audiences.

NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., manages the Chandra program for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory controls Chandra's science and flight operations from Cambridge, Mass.

Fast Facts for Cassiopeia A:
Credit  NASA/CXC/SAO
Release Date  November 15, 2013
Scale  Image is about 8.91 arcmin across (about 29 light years)
Category  Supernovas & Supernova Remnants
Coordinates (J2000)  RA 23h 23m 26.7s | Dec +58° 49' 03.00"
Constellation  Cassiopeia
Observation Date  16 pointings between Jan 2000 and Nov 2010
Observation Time  353 hours (14 days, 17 hours).
Obs. ID  114, 1952, 4634-4639, 5196, 5319, 5320, 6690, 10935, 10936, 12020, 13177
Instrument  ACIS
Also Known As Cas A
Color Code  X-ray: Red 0.5-1.5 keV; Green 1.5-2.5; Blue 4.0-6.0
X-ray
Distance Estimate  About 11,000 light years
Visitor Comments (8)

Cassiopeia A is an awsome supernova and modeling it in 3D is the best thing in ever.

Posted by NASAFan on Tuesday, 07.15.14 @ 08:37am


Amazing.

Posted by Tjapko Smits on Monday, 06.9.14 @ 08:29am


Thank you Smithsonian. This is great work.

Posted by Steph on Thursday, 01.30.14 @ 15:53pm


Intrsting time wise gives me a lot of thought, thankyou.

Posted by rick moll on Saturday, 11.23.13 @ 01:40am


Great scientific and aesthetic work. Congratulations.

Posted by nick alvarez on Tuesday, 11.19.13 @ 20:56pm


Exiting and very interest on history of astrophysics. Thank you.
Rafael

Posted by Rafael Goytisolo on Tuesday, 11.19.13 @ 16:23pm


A very good work, your model show the concentration of matter ionize and modify fabrication of louder elements near neutron star.
And what is interesting me on Cassiopeia is GRB, your model show multi GRB in opposite directions.
Well done.
XP

Posted by PECQUERY on Tuesday, 11.19.13 @ 13:51pm


Beautiful. Thanks for all of your hard work. Keep it up.

Posted by Sean on Monday, 11.18.13 @ 21:09pm


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