NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope snapped an image of a Cosmic Christmas Bauble located 10,000 light years away from Earth.
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The space agency has taken to its website to share the newly snapped image of the Cosmic Christmas Bauble, explaining that the astronomical object is more commonly referred to as Cassiopeia A (Cas A). NASA writes that Cas A is the remnants of a supernova explosion and is located in the constellation Cassiopeia.
This object is the brightest extrasolar radio source in the sky and has been well-documented across the wavelength spectrum. However, despite previous observations, researchers are still discovering secrets within the star’s remains.
So, what does the image show us? Each of the colors within the above image showcases different molecules that are present within the supernova. For example, the bright orange and light pink colors that make up the inner shell of the supernova remnant are tiny knots of gas that are comprised of sulfur, oxygen, argon, and neon. The outskirts of the main inner shell resemble smoke from a campfire and marks where the ejected star material is colliding with surrounding circumstellar material.
The white light is from synchrotron radiation, which is “generated by charged particles traveling at extremely high speeds spiraling around magnetic field lines.“
- NIRCam’s exquisite resolution is able to detect tiny knots of gas, comprised of sulfur, oxygen, argon, and neon from the star itself. Some filaments of debris are too tiny to be resolved even by Webb, meaning they are comparable to or less than 10 billion miles across (around 100 astronomical units). Researchers say this represents how the star shattered like glass when it exploded.
- Circular holes visible in the MIRI image within the Green Monster, a loop of green light in Cas A’s inner cavity, are faintly outlined in white and purple emission in the NIRCam image-this represents ionized gas. Researchers believe this is due to the supernova debris pushing through and sculpting gas left behind by the star before it exploded.
- This is one of a few light echoes visible in NIRCam’s image of Cas A. A light echo occurs when light from the star’s long-ago explosion has reached, and is warming, distant dust, which is glowing as it cools down.
- NIRCam captured a particularly intricate and large light echo, nicknamed Baby Cas A by researchers. It is actually located about 170 light-years behind the supernova remnant.