01 April 2010

Gone With the Wind

“…for it is no more than a dream remembered. A Civilization gone with the wind.”
                         From the movie Gone With the Wind, 1939

Not just a civilization but an entire star is now gone with the wind. In this composite image, NASA’s Chandra and Spitzer space telescopes have beautifully captured the turbulent remains of a supernova explosion.

The white dot, near the center of the image, is the rapidly rotating neutron star, or “pulsar,” that was left behind when the dying star’s inner core collapsed. The collapse, in turn, created a violent shock wave that threw the star’s outer atmosphere outward. After many, many years, this fast-flowing river of dust and gas (seen in red) is now being heated and lit up by a nearby cluster of stars. The pulsar is adding to the mix by ejecting a wind of high-energy particles at high velocities (seen in blue).

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