Giant space bubble reveals reverse shockwaves from a catastrophic star explosion

NASA telescopes captured the bright blast of a starburst thousands of years ago. This has shed new light on the evolution and formation of cosmic remains.
A supernova is a bright explosion that occurs when a star reaches its end. White dwarfs are stars with dimming outer layers and have burned most of their nuclear fuel. White dwarfs, which have shrunk to a small size, are among the most stable stars because they can live for billions, or even trillions, of years.

A white dwarf can siphon too many material from its neighboring star, which can cause it to become unstable and explode, leading to a Type Ia supernova. This is what happened to the stellar remnant G344.7-0.1, which is approximately 19,600 light-years away from Earth. According to NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory, it is between 3,000 to 6,000 years old.

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G344.7-0.1 Supernova remnant, 19,600 lightyears from Earth, is the product of a white dwarf stellar eruption that took place between 3,000 to 6,000 years ago. (Image credit: NASA/CXC/Tokyo Univ. Science/K. Fukushima, et al. ; IR: NASA/JPL/Spitzer; Radio: CSIRO/ATNF/ATCA)

New composite images capture views of the stellar remnant in X, infrared, and radio wavelengths. The detailed image was created using data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory, Spitzer Space Telescope, and the National Science Foundation’s Very Large Array.

G344.7-0.1's new view shows that the stellar debris expands after the initial stellar blast, but then faces resistance from surrounding gases. According to the statement, this resistance slows down debris and creates a reverse shock wave, which travels back towards the center of the explosion. It heats the surrounding debris.

Chandra personnel stated that this process is similar to a jam on a highway. As time passes, more cars will slow down or stop behind the accident. This causes the jam to travel backwards. The reverse shock heats the material to millions of degrees and makes it glow in Xrays.

G344.7-0.1 is quite old in comparison to other Type Ia supernova leftovers. These remnants have exploded over the past thousand years and not experienced the reverse shock wave that heats their cores. G344.7-0.1's observations shed light on the evolution of Type Ia supernova remnants.

The Chandra Xray data also revealed that the supernova remnant contained iron near its core. It is surrounded with arc-like structures containing silica. According to the statement, the data showed that regions containing iron were heated more recently by the reverse shock wave. This supports Type Ia supernova models which predict that heavier elements like iron will be produced at the center these stellar explosions.

The Astrophysical Journal published the research that was associated with the new image in 2020.