Astronomy

Remnants of an Explosion

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Science  18 Jan 2002:
Vol. 295, Issue 5554, pp. 407
DOI: 10.1126/science.295.5554.407c

Supernovae release intense shock waves that light up the progenitor material and create heavier elements. Studying the remnants of these supernovae allows astronomers to glimpse the structure of the progenitor and to estimate the amount and distribution of heavy elements. This information is useful in understanding the origins of these explosions and how these energetic processes have mixed heavier elements into space, which can lead to the formation of more chemically exotic structures, such as planets.

Park et al. studied the supernova remnant G292.0+1.8 in the Milky Way Galaxy with the Chandra X-ray Observatory. High-resolution x-ray images and spectra reveal a central belt-like region with normal solar-type element abundances. The belt is probably the progenitor's circumstellar disk, energized by the shock waves. This feature provides a way to estimate the amount and enhancement of mass loss from the progenitor's red supergiant phase as it exploded. Along the periphery of the remnant, regions of ejecta enhanced in O, Ne, and Si are mixed in with thin filaments of normal composition; these filaments may serve as tracers of the stellar winds from the progenitor. — LR

Astrophys. J.564, L39 (2002).

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