Astronomers working at NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory have captured the most detailed image yet taken of a Type Ia supernova. And this particular supernova is one that people observed all over the world, when it first happened.
What you're looking at here is the remnant of a white dwarf — or possibly two dwarfs — that exploded about 8,000 years ago. When the light from SN 1006 finally reached Earth on May 1, 1006 A.D., it shone brighter than Venus and could be seen during the daytime. Astronomers from around the globe documented the event, including China, Japan, Europe, and the Arab world.
Type Ia supernovas happen when a white dwarf pulls too much mass from a companion star and explodes, or when two white dwarfs merge and explode.
According to astronomers, the fastest waves of celestial matter are still bursting outwards at a rate of 11 million miles per hour, while the slower areas are propagating at 7 million miles per hour.
To create the image, Chandra scientists overlapped ten different pointings of Chandra’s field-of-view, and it contains over eight days worth of observing time by the telescope. It’s considered the most spatially detailed map yet of the material ejected during a Type Ia supernova.
Image credit: Chandra X-Ray Observatory.