This is the Cassiopeia A supernova remnant, located about 11,090 light-years away in the direction of the Cassiopeia constellation. The detailed image shows a pink or orange thread-like structure surrounded by white smoke.
A supernova remnant is an astronomical object observed after a massive star with a mass greater than eight times the mass of the Sun explodes as a supernova. What shines is gas that is heated by the shock wave generated by the explosion, emitting visible, infrared and X-ray light. Based on the rate of gas diffusion, it is thought that if the supernova explosion that created Cassiopeia A, which is about 10 light-years in diameter, had been observed, it would have occurred about 340 years ago.
This image was created based on data acquired by the Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam) of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). Because the Webb Space Telescope primarily observes infrared wavelengths that cannot be seen by the human eye, the colors of published images are colored according to the filters used during acquisition.
According to the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI), which operates the Webb Space Telescope, the pink and orange colored areas in the image represent the material that makes up Cassiopeia A’s inner atmosphere. The sensitive Webb Space Telescope can detect tiny clumps of gases like sulfur, oxygen, argon and neon that it spews out. The stars are about 100 AU across.(※)It is said that it is somewhat recognizable.
*One astronomical unit (au) is equivalent to about 150 million kilometres, derived from the average distance from the Sun to Earth.
On the other hand, the white smoke-like substance surrounding the inner atmosphere is thought to be synchrotron radiation. Synchrotron radiation is an electromagnetic wave emitted by charged particles such as electrons spiraling in a magnetic field, and the Webb space telescope’s NIRCam captured the near-infrared region of the radiation.
Also visible in the lower right corner of the image is a light echo observed when supernova light explodes and heats the dust at a distance, causing the dust to cool. According to STScI, the infrared-emitting dust is located about 170 light-years from Cassiopeia A, and researchers have named it “Baby Cas A.”
“Thanks to the resolution of NIRCam, we can now see how a dying star shatters when it explodes, leaving behind filaments that look like tiny glass shards,” said Dani Milisavljevic of Purdue University, who led the research team that carried out the observations. “By studying Cassiopeia A for many years, it is amazing that we have now discovered details that provide transformative insight into how the star exploded.”
The initially shown images of Cassiopeia A were released by STScI, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the European Space Agency (ESA) on December 10 and 11, 2023.
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Text Editing/Syrian Studies Department