This colorful, unusual-looking region harbors a violent mystery. In recent times, one part of what use to be a binary star system survived the cataclysmic event in which its partner bit the dust and detonated as a supernova — the largest and most powerful force in all of the universe. The discovery, which was made using NASA’s Chandra X-Ray Observatory and a slew of ground-based observatories, revealed the true nature of the supernova remnant and its seemingly indestructible companion star.
Called, DEM L241, the oxygen, neon and magnesium-rich remnant itself lurks within the Large Magellanic Cloud — a satellite galaxy of the Milky Way — almost 200,000 light-years away from Earth. Because of the sheer luminosity of these supernova artifacts, they provide a perfect spot to point our telescopes toward, with them being especially prominent at x-ray wavelengths.
When Chandra singled the region out, astronomers learned that, in addition to the young, massive star helping power the nebula, there is a small, pointed source of x-ray emission. After the pre-nova star chucked its guts out into the interstellar medium following a core collapse, it likely left either a neutron star or a stellarmass black hole behind in its wake, which is the object the emissions stem from. Significantly, if this hypothesis is verified, this system would be one of a small handful of systems known to harbor a massive star in addition to a black hole or a neutron star.
According to NASA and the Chandra team, this composite image of DEM L241 contains “Chandra data (purple) that outlines the supernova remnant. The remnant remains hot and therefore X-ray bright for thousands of years after the original explosion occurred. Also included in this image are optical data from the Magellanic Cloud Emission Line Survey (MCELS) taken from ground-based telescopes in Chile (yellow and cyan), which trace the HII emission produced by DEM L241. Additional optical data from the Digitized Sky Survey (white) are also included, showing stars in the field.”
See a larger image here.