New Image of Supernova Remnant W44

Supernova remnant W44

Supernova remnant W44 is the focus of this new image created by combining data from ESA’s Herschel and XMM-Newton space observatories. Image credit: Herschel: Quang Nguyen Luong & F. Motte, HOBYS Key Program consortium, Herschel SPIRE/PACS/ESA consortia. XMM-Newton: ESA/XMM-Newton

Using combined data, astronomers have created a new image of supernova remnant W44, which is located roughly 10,000 light-years away in the constellation of Aquila.

The aftershock of a stellar explosion rippling through space is captured in this new view of the supernova remnant called W44. The image combines longer-wavelength infrared and X-ray light captured by the European Space Agency’s Herschel and XMM-Newton space observatories.

NASA also plays an important role in the Herschel mission, with the U.S project office based at the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

W44 is located about 10,000 light-years away, within a forest of dense star-forming clouds in the constellation of Aquila, the Eagle. It is one of the best examples of a supernova remnant interacting with its parent cloud.

The supernova remnant is the result of a massive star that reached the end of its life and expelled its outer layers in a dramatic explosion. All that remains of the stellar behemoth is the spinning core of a neutron star, or pulsar.

Identified as PSR B1853+01, the pulsar is the bright point to the top left in W44, colored light blue in this image. It is thought to be around 20,000 years old. Like all pulsars, as it rapidly rotates, it sweeps out a wind of highly energetic particles and beams of light ranging from radio to X-ray energies. The center of the supernova remnant is also bright in X-rays, coming from the hot gas that fills the shell at temperatures of several million degrees.

Herschel’s infrared eyes seek out regions of gently heated gas and dust farther from W44, where new stars are congregating. Examples include the arrowhead-shaped star-formation region to the right of W44, which appears to point to another trio of intricate clouds further to the right and above.

More broadly, a number of compact objects scattered across the scene map the cold seeds of future stars that will eventually emerge from their dusty cocoons.

Finally, diffuse purple emission towards the bottom left of the image provides a glimpse of the plane of our Milky Way galaxy.

Herschel is a European Space Agency cornerstone mission, with science instruments provided by consortia of European institutes and with important participation by NASA. NASA’s Herschel Project Office is based at JPL, which contributed mission-enabling technology for two of Herschel’s three science instruments. The NASA Herschel Science Center, part of the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, supports the United States astronomical community. Caltech manages JPL for NASA.

Source: Whitney Clavin, Jet Propulsion Laboratory; NASA

Image: Herschel: Quang Nguyen Luong & F. Motte, HOBYS Key Program consortium, Herschel SPIRE/PACS/ESA consortia. XMM-Newton: ESA/XMM-Newton

5 Comments on "New Image of Supernova Remnant W44"

  1. Nelson Simonson | November 15, 2012 at 1:50 pm | Reply

    The article states that supernova W44 is 10,000 light years away. It also estimates that pulsar PSR B1853+01 is around 20,000 years old. Given that the pulsar’s image is derived from 10,000 year-old data, which of the following two statements is more correct?
    1. The image depicts the pulsar as it appeared 10,000 years ago when it was thought to be 20,000 years old.
    2. The image depicts the pulsar, which is now thought to be 20,000 years old, as it appeared when it was 10,000 years younger.

  2. Madanagopal.V.C. | November 15, 2012 at 7:07 pm | Reply

    PSR B1853+1 is the name of the Pulsar which is 20000 years old. W44 is the remnants of this pulsar which is found 10000 light years away interacting with the parent cloud in the constellation Aquila. Remnants are thrown out when the star dies a natural death and it is emitting hot infra-red rays and X-rays only which is captured by the Herschel observatory of Pasedona. I hope that this will clarify the doubt of the earlier comments. Thank You.

    • Nelson Simonson | November 20, 2012 at 6:04 pm | Reply

      My question was simpler than that. If the pulsar is 20,000 years old and is located 10,000 light years away, should the reader infer that the image depicts the pulsar as it existed 10,000 years ago? (20k – 10k = 10k)
      Thanks for your patience!

  3. Madanagopal.V.C. | November 23, 2012 at 6:48 am | Reply

    Dear Sir, The Pulsar is only 20000 light years old only and it is situated there at that distance. But the remnants W44 from it is thrown away at such a speed that it had traveled 10000 light years distance and it is now available at a nearer distance than the original pulsar at only 10000 light years away , since it has traveled towards our earth at a such a speed. Got it? Thank You.

  4. Lovely article, thanks you author, this helps me about my questioning

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