A few days ago NASA put out a press release about a major announcement being made on the 14th. Well, now the announcement has been made.
Using the Chandra X-Ray Telescope, along with the NOAO Very Large Array (VLA) – which is a set of radio telescopes on the New Mexico desert – astronomers have discovered a supernova remnant in our galaxy. A relatively young one.
What makes this interesting is a few facts: where it was found, it’s distance, and it’s age.
It was found close to the center of our galaxy (from our perspective), and not by visual means. There is so much dust and gas between us and the galactic center that many things are obscured by said dust and gas. But, using previous data from the VLA, Chandra managed to image the remnant in the X-Ray portion of the spectrum. So while this was invisible to visible light telescopes, X-Ray and Radio telescopes can see it.
Two of the other facts, distance and age, go hand-in-hand. The last supernova that was observed in our galaxy was in the 1600’s. Now, astronomers have always thought that there should be supernovae more frequently than that, but there hasn’t been any found. until now. This supernova is only 140 years old.
Supernovae and their remnants are seen all the time in other galaxies, but not in our own. So this is important news for astronomers, because it goes to solving a puzzle that has intrigued scientists for decades.
Dr. Phil Plait, of “Bad Astronomy” fame, has written a much more detailed article about this news. Please head on over to his BadAstronomy.com site and check it out. You can also read the Press Release from Chandra.