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A “Green Monster” Lurks in Star’s Debris


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This image of Cassiopeia A resembles a disk of electric light with red clouds, glowing white streaks, red and orange flames, and an area near the center of the remnant resembling a somewhat circular region of green lightning. X-rays from Chandra are blue and reveal hot gas, mostly from supernova debris from the destroyed star, and include elements like silicon and iron. X-rays are also present as thin arcs in the outer regions of the remnant. Infrared data from Webb is red, green, and blue. Webb highlights infrared emission from dust that is warmed up because it is embedded in the hot gas seen by Chandra, and from much cooler supernova debris. Hubble data shows a multitude of stars that permeate the field of view.
X-ray: NASA/CXC/SAO; Optical: NASA/ESA/STScl; IR: NASA/ESA/CSA/STScl/Milisavljevic et al., NASA/JPL/CalTech; Image Processing: NASA/CXC/SAO/J. Schmidt and K. Arcand

For the first time, astronomers have combined data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and James Webb Space Telescope to study the well-known supernova remnant Cassiopeia A (Cas A). This work has helped explain an unusual structure in the debris from the destroyed star called the “Green Monster,” because of its resemblance to the wall in the left field of Fenway Park.

By combining the Webb data with X-rays from Chandra, researchers have concluded that the Green Monster was created by a blast wave from the exploded star slamming into material surrounding it. Detailed analysis found that filaments in the outer part of Cas A, from the blast wave, closely matched the X-ray properties of the Green Monster, including less iron and silicon than in the supernova debris. This interpretation is apparent from the color Chandra image, which shows that the colors inside the Green Monster’s outline best match with the colors of the blast wave rather than the debris with iron and silicon.

Learn more about the Green Monster.

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