160,000 light years away, in the Large Magellanic Cloud, an object is being expelled from the remnant of a supernova at 500 million miles an hour. And NASA got this shot of it.
What you're seeing here is a composite image of X-rays (blue) and visible light (yellow), showing what remains of a star exploding. NASA took the picture of this incredible blowout, and researchers discovered that the star is still shooting out matter. In the lower left hand side of the picture, the fast-moving chunk of debris is zooming into space, presumably launched from somewhere in the nebula'a upper right corner. (See this image for further clarification.)
In order to detect this bullet, a team of researchers led by Sangwook Park of Penn State University used Chandra to observe N49 for over 30 hours. This bullet can be seen in the bottom right hand corner of the image (see the labeled version of the image) and is rich in silicon, sulphur and neon. The detection of this bullet shows that the explosion that destroyed the star was highly asymmetric.
The bullet is traveling at a high speed of about 5 million miles an hour away from a bright point source in the upper left part of N49. This bright source may be a so-called soft gamma ray repeater (SGR), a source that emits bursts of gamma rays and X-rays. A leading explanation for these objects is that they are neutron stars with extremely powerful magnetic fields. Since neutron stars are often created in supernova explosions, an association between SGRs and supernova remnants is not unexpected.
Images: X-ray: NASA/CXC/Penn State/S. Park et al. Optical: NASA/STScI/UIUC/Y.H. Chu & R. Williams et al.