PIA03519: Cassiopeia A: Death Becomes Her
Target Name: Cassiopeia A
Mission: Hubble Space Telescope
Spitzer Space Telescope
Instrument: IRAC
Visible Light
Chandra X-ray Telescope
Product Size: 1835 x 1348 pixels (width x height)
Produced By: California Institute of Technology
Full-Res TIFF: PIA03519.tif (7.432 MB)
Full-Res JPEG: PIA03519.jpg (263.6 kB)

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Updated Caption: (View Original Caption)

This false-color image from three of NASA's Great Observatories provides one example of a star that died in a fiery supernova blast. Called Cassiopeia A, this supernova remnant is located 10,000 light-years away in the constellation Cassiopeia. At the center of this orb, visible only as a tiny turquoise dot, is the leftover corpse of the now-dead star, called a neutron star. The multi-hued shell outside the neutron star is the rest of the original star's scattered remains.

NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope found a dusty disk circling around a similar neutron star called 4U 0142+61. This particular neutron star (not pictured here) spins and pulses with X-ray radiation, so it is called a pulsar. Its disk is made of material that was blown off the exploding star but never reached a high enough velocity to escape the star's gravity.

A photograph of 4U 0142+61 would only show both the pulsar and disk as one small dot, without any outer shell of expelled material. This is because the pulsar exploded about 100,000 years ago, and its shell has since cooled to the point where it is no longer visible. The death of the star that gave rise to Cassiopeia A was witnessed from Earth about 320 years ago, so its shell is still hot and glowing.

Infrared data from the Spitzer Space Telescope are colored red; visible data from the Hubble Space Telescope are yellow; and X-ray data from the Chandra X-ray Observatory are green and blue.

Image Credit:
NASA/JPL-Caltech/STScI/CXC/SAO
Animation: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Ariz./STScI/CXC/SAO

Image Addition Date:
2005-06-10