Dead star remnants never looked this good.
When a star dies in a spectacularly powerful supernova, it blasts its incredibly hot remains into the cosmos, forming what's called supernova remnants (SNRs) in the aftermath.
Looking to visualize one of these stellar oddities, a team of researchers at Australia’s national science agency CSIRO collected data from the extremely sensitive Australian Square Kilometer Array Pathfinder (ASKAP) radio telescope observing an SNR and fed it into a brand spanking new supercomputer called Setonix.
And the image that Setonix synthesized, as published in The Conversation, is absolutely stunning, serving as a convincing demonstration of the prowess of supercomputers.
It's A Looker
The depicted SNR, designated G261.9+5.5, was first identified as one back in 1967, and is believed to be over one million years old, the researchers say. But at some 10,000 to 15,000 light years away, it’s pretty far out there.
While it’s unclear which type of SNR we're looking at, we can at least revel in how awesome it looks.
What gives an SNR that distinct appearance is its tendency to sweep up, compress, and then heat up drifting material in the interstellar medium. The resulting shockwaves also compress interstellar magnetic fields that trap energetic electrons, the emissions of which can be captured in radio telescopes like ASKAP.
Trial By Fire
The researchers say that their SNR-imaging venture proved to be a great way of testing the Setonix supercomputer’s capabilities. The data collected from ASKAP is a lot to process, and to map out something as complex as an SNR in high detail is no small feat.
But when the team put Setonix to work in rendering G261.9+5.5, the supercomputer performed admirably, spitting out the image in less than 24 hours.
That’s good news, as it means that more ambitious observations by ASKAP could be quickly processed by Setonix in the future, allowing scientists to get a closer look at the interstellar medium, and beyond.