Saturday, March 26, 2011

Tycho's supernova remnant shows its stripes

(Image: X-ray: NASA/CXC/Rutgers/K.Eriksen et al.; Optical: DSS)

X-ray stripes have been spotted lurking in the high-energy blast wave of a stellar explosion spotted by Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe in 1572.

Expanding debris from the explosion shines in low-energy (red) X-rays, while the blast wave, a shell of energetic electrons, shines in high-energy (blue) X-rays.
The band pattern, which has never been seen before in any remnant, appears in the high-energy X-ray observations.

The stripes are thought to be regions where magnetic fields in the blast wave are more tangled than in surrounding areas. Electrons spiral around these magnetic field lines, and the radius of this corkscrew motion is thought to dictate the size of the gaps between the stripes.

That size corresponds to particles at energies about 100 times as high as those produced at the Large Hadron Collider, according to Kristoffer Eriksen of Rutgers University in Piscataway, New Jersey, and colleagues.

The study suggests that supernova remnants can account for some of the high-energy particles called cosmic rays that bombard Earth from space.

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