Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2002 May 23
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N132D and the Color of X-Rays
Credit: SAO, CXC, NASA

Explanation: Supernova remnant N132D shows off complex structures in this sharp, color x-ray image. Still, overall this cosmic debris from a massive star's explosive death has a strikingly simple horseshoe shape. While N132D lies 180,000 light-years distant in the Large Magellanic Cloud, the expanding remnant appears here about 80 light-years across. Light from the supernova blast which created it would have reached planet Earth about 3,000 years ago. Observed by the orbiting Chandra Observatory, N132D still glows in x-rays, its shocked gas heated to millions of degrees Celsius. Since x-rays are invisible, the Chandra x-ray image data are represented in this picture by assigning visible colors to x-rays with different energies. Low energy x-rays are shown as red, medium energy as green, and high energy as blue colors. These color choices make a pleasing picture and they also show the x-rays in the same energy order as visible light photons, which range from low to high energies as red, green, and blue.

Tomorrow's picture: all's fair in love and war ...

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Authors & editors: Robert Nemiroff (MTU) & Jerry Bonnell (USRA)
NASA Technical Rep.: Jay Norris. Specific rights apply.
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