100-Year Cosmic Ray Mystery Solved with Supernovas (Photos)
W44 Supernova Remnant in Parent Star
Credit: NASA/DOE/Fermi LAT Collaboration, NRAO/AUI, JPL-Caltech, ROSAT
The W44 supernova remnant is nestled within and interacting with the molecular cloud that formed its parent star. Fermi’s LAT detects GeV gamma rays (magenta) produced when the gas is bombarded by cosmic rays, primarily protons. Radio observations (yellow) from the Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array near Socorro, N.M., and infrared (red) data from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope reveal filamentary structures in the remnant’s shell. Blue shows X-ray emission mapped by the Germany-led ROSAT mission.
Ultra High-Energy Cosmic Rays
Credit: NSF/J. Yang
The origin of high-energy cosmic rays has been a 100-year astronomy mystery. But a study revealed on Feb. 14, 2013, unveiled conclusive proof that they are created in supernova explosions. See more photos here of the supernova discovery.
Supernova Remnant IC 443
Credit: NASA/DOE/Fermi LAT Collaboration, NOAO/AURA/NSF, JPL-Caltech/UCLA
This multiwavelength composite shows the supernova remnant IC 443, also known as the Jellyfish Nebula. Fermi GeV gamma-ray emission is shown in magenta, optical wavelengths as yellow, and infrared data from NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) mission is shown as blue (3.4 microns), cyan (4.6 microns), green (12 microns) and red (22 microns). Cyan loops indicate where the remnant is interacting with a dense cloud of interstellar gas.
Artist’s Illustration of a Supernova Explosion
Credit: Greg Stewart/SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory
An artist’s illustration of a supernova explosion, which sends off shock waves that accelerate protons to the point that they become cosmic rays, a process called Fermi acceleration. Many details of Fermi acceleration are unknown, but data from NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope provide overwhelming evidence that Fermi acceleration is responsible for cosmic rays.
Spectra From Two Supernova Remnants
Credit: NASA/DOE/Fermi LAT Collaboration, Chandra X-ray Observatory, ESA; Herschel/XMM-Newton
Finding evidence for the acceleration of protons has long been a key issue in the efforts to explain the origin of cosmic rays. This pair of spectra from two supernova remnants (also shown visibly with data from various satellites and wavelengths) are the “smoking gun” that researchers have been looking for.
Supernova SN 1006 Remnant
Credit: Radio: NRAO/AUI/NSF/GBT/VLA/Dyer, Maddalena & Cornwell, X-ray: Chandra X-ray Observatory; NASA/CXC/Rutgers/G. Cassam-Chenaï, J. Hughes et al., Visible light: 0.9-metre Curtis Schmidt optical telescope; NOAO/AURA/NSF/CTIO/Middlebury College/F. Winkler and
Another study announced on Feb. 14, 2013, studied the supernova SN 1006 to also find evidence of supernova shock waves that can accelerate cosmic rays. This remarkable image was created from pictures taken by different telescopes in space and on the ground. It shows the thousand-year-old remnant of the brilliant SN 1006 supernova, as seen in radio (red), X-ray (blue) and visible light (yellow). .
Part of Supernova Remnant SN 1006
Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA). Acknowledgment: W. Blair (Johns Hopkins University)
This image is a composite of hydrogen-light observations taken with Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys in February 2006 and Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 observations in blue, yellow-green, and near-infrared light taken in April 2008. The supernova remnant, visible only in the hydrogen-light filter was assigned a red hue in this color image.
Cosmic Rays Illustration
Credit: Simon Swordy/University of Chicago, NASA
An artist’s concept of the shower of particles produced when Earth’s atmosphere is struck by ultra-high-energy cosmic rays.