Cassiopeia A • Cas A • 3C461
New analysis of an extraordinarily deep Chandra image of Cassiopeia A shows that this supernova remnant accelerates electrons to enormous energies. The blue, wispy arcs reveal the acceleration is taking place in an expanding shock wave generated by the explosion that destroyed the progenitor star. This acceleration is close to the theoretical limit and provides strong evidence that supernova remnants are key sites for generating cosmic rays, mysterious high-energy particles that bombard the Earth.
NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory, which was launched and deployed by Space Shuttle Columbia on July 23, 1999, is the most sophisticated X-ray observatory built to date. The mirrors on Chandra are the largest, most precisely shaped and aligned, and smoothest mirrors ever constructed. Chandra is helping scientists better understand the hot, turbulent regions of space and answer fundamental questions about origin, evolution, and destiny of the Universe. The images Chandra makes are twenty-five times sharper than the best previous X-ray telescope. NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., manages the Chandra program for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory controls Chandra science and flight operations from the Chandra X-ray Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts. 2004