How Many Special People Change?

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Joe Dolan.

Big Tom.

Cassiopeia A.

Yes, big stars shine bright and their legacies abide long after they die. To wit:

 Massive stars in our Milky Way Galaxy live spectacular lives. Collapsing from vast cosmic clouds, their nuclear furnaces ignite and create heavy elements in their cores. After a few million years, the enriched material is blasted back into interstellar space where star formation can begin anew. The expanding debris cloud known as Cassiopeia A is an example of this final phase of the stellar life cycle. Light from the explosion which created this supernova remnant would have been first seen in planet Earth’s sky about 350 years ago, although it took that light about 11,000 years to reach us. This false-colour image, composed of X-ray and optical image data from the Chandra X-ray Observatory and Hubble Space Telescope, shows the still hot filaments and knots in the remnant. It spans about 30 light-years at the estimated distance of Cassiopeia A. High-energy X-ray emission from specific elements has been colour coded, silicon in red, sulphur in yellow, calcium in green and iron in purple, to help astronomers explore the recycling of our galaxy’s star stuff. Still expanding, the outer blast wave is seen in blue hues. The bright speck near the centre is a neutron star, the incredibly dense, collapsed remains of the massive stellar core.

(Image : X-ray – NASACXC, SAO; Optical – NASA,STScI)

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2 thoughts on “How Many Special People Change?

  1. Slightly Bemused

    Stunning! I have said it before and I will say it again: I am really loving this series! Thanks, Chompsky!

    I am always fascinated at the shapes these clouds are not perfectly spherical. My decidedly simple understanding of physics tells me it should be, but obviously it is not, and I wonder why. Likely due to the presence of other matter, gravitational effects from larger bodies, and such. Either way, it makes for much more interesting and beautiful spectacles.

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