The European Space Agency (ESA) has released a new image of the aftershock of a supernova remnant named W44. The image, seen above, combines infrared and X-ray light captured by the ESA's Herschel and XMM-Newton space observatories.
W44 is located around 10,000 light-years away from our solar system, residing in a nebula in the constellation Aquila. NASA stated that the phenomenon is one of the best examples found of a supernova remnant interacting with its parent cloud. W44 is all that remains of the star's outer layer, which was thrown out in an explosion called a supernova at the end of the star's life.
What remains of the star itself is the spinning core of a neutron star, also known as a pulsar. Named PSR B1853+01, the pulsar is the bright blue-colored point in the top left of W44 in the photo. The object is believed to be around 20,000 old. As with all pulsars, the object spins rapidly, throwing out a wind of energetic particles and beams of light that range from radio to X-ray frequencies. The hot gas that fills the shell of the supernova remnant is also bright blue from X-rays.
The Herschel mission is an ESA cornerstone mission. The U.S. Herschel Project Office is located at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), which provides technology for two of Herschel's three science instruments. The space observatory is examining heated gas and dust farther from W44, where new stars are forming.
Larger versions of the image that are suitable as a wallpaper background are available through NASA's website.
(Image courtesy Quang Nguyen Luong & F. Motte, HOBYS Key Program consortium, Herschel SPIRE/PACS/ESA consortia, and ESA/XMM-Newton)