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Cassiopeia A Comes Alive Across Time and Space

For Release: January 6, 2009

CXC

Cas A
Image Credit: NASA/CXC/SAO/D.Patnaude et al.
Press Image and Caption
Cas A
Image Credit: NASA/CXC/D.Berry
Press Image and Caption

Two new efforts have taken a famous supernova remnant from the static to the dynamic. A new movie of data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory shows changes in time never seen before in this type of object. And, an unprecedented and dramatic three-dimensional visualization of the same remnant by a separate team is being released.

Nearly ten years ago, Chandra's "First Light" image of Cassiopeia A (Cas A) revealed previously unseen structures and detail. Now, after eight years of observation, scientists have been able to construct a movie that tracks the remnant's expansion and changes over time.

"With Chandra, we have watched Cas A over a relatively small amount of its life, but so far the show has been amazing," said Daniel Patnaude of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Mass. "And, we can use this to learn more about the aftermath of the star's explosion."

A separate, but equally fascinating visualization featuring Cas A was presented, along with the Patnaude team's results, at a press conference at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Long Beach, Calif. Based on data from Chandra, NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, and ground-based optical telescopes, Tracey Delaney and her colleagues have created the first threedimensional fly-through of a supernova remnant.

"We have always wanted to know how the pieces we see in two dimensions fit together with each other in real life," said Delaney of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "Now we can see for ourselves with this 'hologram' of supernova debris."

This ground-breaking visualization of Cas A was made possible through a collaboration with the Astronomical Medicine project based at Harvard. The goal of this project is to bring together the best techniques from two very different fields, astronomy and medical imaging.

"Right now, we are focusing on improving three-dimensional visualization in both astronomy and medicine,"said Harvard's Alyssa Goodman who heads the Astronomical Medicine project. "This project with Cas A is exactly what we have hoped would come out of it."


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