NASA’s Chandra X-Ray Observatory snapped this image of the aftermath of a thermonuclear explosion of a white dwarf star. It’s beautiful, right? According to NASA, it’s the result of a type Ia supernova, involving more than one star in close proximity to amplify the scale of the blast.
G299 was left over by a particular class of supernovas called Type Ia. Astronomers think that a Type Ia supernova is a thermonuclear explosion — involving the fusion of elements and release of vast amounts of energy − of a white dwarf star in a tight orbit with a companion star. If the white dwarf’s partner is a typical, Sun-like star, the white dwarf can become unstable and explode as it draws material from its companion. Alternatively, the white dwarf is in orbit with another white dwarf, the two may merge and can trigger an explosion.
Regardless of their triggering mechanism, Type Ia supernovas have long been known to be uniform in their extreme brightness, usually outshining the entire galaxy where they are found. This is important because scientists use these objects as cosmic mileposts, allowing them to accurately measure the distances of galaxies billions of light years away, and to determine the rate of expansion of the Universe.
Sometimes space is just “woah.” [NASA]