NASA shares image of supernova remnant RCW 103 captured by Chandra

NASA has shared a dazzling image of a supernova captured by the Chandra X-ray Observatory telescope. NASA shared the image on its Instagram page, writing, “The bright source at the centre of supernova remnant RCW 103 is a neutron star. Matter in a neutron star is packed together so tightly that a sugar-cube-sized amount of neutron star material would weigh more than one billion tons — roughly the weight of Mount Everest!” According to a statement by Chandra X-Ray Observatory, the compact source at the centre of RCW 103 is the remains of a supernova explosion located about 9,000 light-years from Earth.

 NASA shares image of supernova remnant RCW 103 captured by Chandra

This composite image shows RCW 103 and its central source 161348-5055 in three bands of X-rays detected by Chandra with low, medium, and high-energy X-rays colored red, green, and blue respectively. Image credit: NASA/CXC/University of Amsterdam/N.Rea et al; Optical: DSS

In the image, there are three bands of X-ray light detected by Chandra. The lowest energy X-rays from Chandra are red, the medium band is green, while blue denotes the highest-energy X-rays. The bright blue X-ray source in the middle of RCW 103 is called its central source – 1E 1613.

RCW 103 according to a statement by Chandra team is one of the most “extreme pulsars, or rotating neutron stars, ever detected”.

A while back astronomers had agreed that 1E 1613 is a neutron story and now they have discovered that it actually might be a highly magnetized neutron star (magnetar). However, the amount of time it takes to spin is thousands of times longer than any pulsar ever observed. In 2016, an instrument aboard NASA’s Swift telescope captured the release of a short burst of X-rays from 1E 1613. The source exhibited intense, extremely rapid fluctuations that are similar to magnetars.

Magnetars possess the most powerful magnetic fields in the Universe and can erupt with enormous amounts of energy.

Data from a trio of high energy telescopes and archival data from Chandra, Swift and ESA’s XMM-Newton confirmed that 1E 1613 has the properties of a magnetar, making it only the 30th known magnetar.