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When a star explodes, it leaves behind a debris field of stellar material and high-energy particles known as a supernova remnant. Astronomers use Chandra to study these remnants that can produce intense X-ray radiation for thousands of years. Supernova remnants are responsible for seeding cloud that formed our Sun, planets, and ultimately us with elements like nitrogen and oxygen.
Supernovas are the remnants of catastrophic explosions, and they are among the favorite targets of scientists who use Chandra, for good reason too. Supernovas and their remnants have proven to be extremely important in understanding topics ranging from the birth of our Solar System to the history and composition of the Universe itself.
Humanity has long sought to learn about the Milky Way, our home galaxy. Even after the advent of optical telescopes, the Milky Way's center remained mysterious because gas and dust blocks most visible light along our line of sight. Fortunately, X-ray telescopes like Chandra can detect higher-energy radiation that penetrates this veil of galactic debris.
X-ray telescopes like Chandra are not like the telescopes you find in backyards or at the local observatory. In addition to being above the Earth's atmosphere, they need to have special mirrors to detect the X-rays that pass through most objects.
NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory, in orbit since 1999, studies the high-energy Universe, where black holes, exploding stars, and mysterious matter hold sway.