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article imageNASA publishes image of oldest recorded supernova RCW 86

By Andrew Moran     Feb 14, 2012 in Science
Washington - NASA revealed an image of the oldest recorded supernova on record. The image, which combines data from four telescopes, shows RCW 86, which is approximately 8,000 light-years away and is 85 light-years in diameter.
A supernova is one of the most energetic explosions in the universe. Supernovas transpire at the end of a star’s life when its nuclear fuel has come to an end and can no longer live by releasing nuclear energy.
On Monday, NASA released an image of the oldest recorded supernova in the universe’s history. Compiling data from four space telescopes to form a multi-wavelength view of the supernova, NASA found RCW 86.
Utilizing a combination of x-ray images from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and the European Space Agency's XMM-Newton Observatory, it is believed that Chinese astronomers experienced the supernova in 185 A.D. and documented a “mysterious guest star,” which remained in the sky for eight months.
After studying RCW 86, it is believed that the explosion was a Type la supernova – a subcategory of a supernova, such as Type la, Type lb, Type lc and so on. This supernova occurred when a white dwarf star destabilized when a fellow star dumped material onto it.
The scientists also concluded as to how it got to be as big as it did. The wind, which was blown away prior to the supernova, made it possible to clear away a cavity (a region of low-density). The cavity’s explosion expanded much faster.
Furthermore, infrared data assembled by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope and Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) showed the dust radiating at several hundred degrees below zero, which is believed to be quite warm when comparing to normal dust in our Milky Way galaxy.
RCW 86 is about 8,000 light-years away, consists of an 85-light-year diameter and is located in the southern constellation of Circinus.
More about NASA, RCW 86, Supernova, European space agency, Chandra Xray Observatory
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