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More Images of Cassiopeia A
Illustration of Neutron Star & Atmosphere
Evidence for a thin carbon atmosphere on a neutron star at the center of Cas A has been found. The properties of the carbon atmosphere are remarkable. It is only about four inches thick, has a density similar to diamond and a pressure more than ten times that found at the center of the Earth. As with the Earth's atmosphere, the extent of an atmosphere on a neutron star is proportional to the atmospheric temperature and inversely proportional to the surface gravity. The temperature is estimated to be almost two million degrees, much hotter than the Earth's atmosphere. However, the surface gravity on Cas A is 100 billion times stronger than on Earth, resulting in an incredibly thin atmosphere.
(Credit: Illustration: NASA/CXC/M.Weiss)
Chandra Image and Artist's Illustration of Neutron Star
The point-like source at the center of Cas A has been known to astronomers for over a decade. New research suggests this neutron star is coated with a carbon atmosphere only four inches thick. This carbon atmosphere has a density similar to a diamond and a pressure more than ten times that found at the center of the Earth. This discovery made with data from Chandra is the first time the composition of an atmosphere of an isolated neutron star has been confirmed.
Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/Southampton/W. Ho et al.; Illustration: NASA/CXC/M.Weiss

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