Was SNR 1181 really the surprising echo of an 800-year-old explosion?

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Was SNR 1181 really the surprising echo of an 800-year-old explosion?

In the year 1181 a rare supernova explosion appeared in the night sky, staying visible for 185 consecutive days.

In the annals of astronomical history, the year 1181 marked an extraordinary event—a rare supernova explosion that captivated the night sky for 185 consecutive days. This cosmic spectacle, resembling a temporary ‘star’ in the constellation Cassiopeia shining as brightly as Saturn, left an indelible mark on humanity’s collective memory. For centuries, scientists endeavored to unravel the enigma of this ancient supernova’s remnant. Initially, speculation pointed towards 3C 58, a nebula enveloping a pulsar. However, meticulous investigations revealed the pulsar predates the supernova event, dismissing it as the potential remnant.

Enter Pa 30, a circular nebula with a central star discovered in Cassiopeia—a newfound contender in the quest for Supernova 1181’s remnants. Through a composite image derived from various telescopic observations across the electromagnetic spectrum, astronomers unveiled a breathtaking view of the supernova remnant, offering a glimpse into our ancestors’ celestial spectacle.

In this composite image, X-ray observations from ESA’s XMM-Newton and NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory delineate the nebula’s full extent, with the latter pinpointing its central source. While barely visible in optical light, the nebula radiates brightly in infrared, captured by NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Space Explorer. Notably, the radial structure, illuminated by heated sulfur emitting visible light, offers insights into the nebula’s intricate composition.

Scientific analyses of the remnant’s composition suggest it originated from a sub-luminous Type Iax supernova—a rare thermonuclear explosion resulting from the merger of two white dwarf stars. Contrary to typical expectations, this event left behind a ‘zombie’ star, a massive white dwarf boasting temperatures around 200,000 degrees Celsius and emitting a stellar wind reaching speeds of up to 16,000 km/h. The synergy between the central star and the nebula presents a unique opportunity for studying such extraordinary cosmic phenomena.

Administered by the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory’s Chandra X-ray Center, this monumental discovery underscores the ongoing pursuit of unraveling the mysteries of the cosmos from the vantage point of Earth’s observatories.

The composite image depicts SNR 1181’s remnants, emanating from the merger of two stars centuries ago. At the center lies a vibrant, spherical nebula surrounded by a backdrop of white stellar dots. A focal point of aqua-colored light represents the hot white dwarf star, from which magnificent rays extend outward, reminiscent of a celestial firework bursting amidst the cosmic expanse.

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