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SNR 0104-72.3: Supernova Remnant is an Unusual Suspect
SNR 0104-72.3

  • SNR 0104 is the remains of a supernova in the Small Magellanic Cloud, a nearby galaxy located about 190,000 light years away.

  • Since it contains a large amount of iron, it was likely formed by an explosion of a white dwarf, not the collapse of a massive star.

  • The asymmetrical shape is unusual for such a supernova and might be caused by jets in the explosion or clumps of nearby gas.

A new image from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory shows a supernova remnant with a different look. This object, known as SNR 0104-72.3 (SNR 0104 for short), is in the Small Magellanic Cloud, a small neighboring galaxy to the Milky Way. Astronomers think that SNR 0104 is the remains of a so-called Type Ia supernova caused by the thermonuclear explosion of a white dwarf.

In this composite made of X-rays from Chandra shown in purple and infrared data from Spitzer shown in green and red, SNR 0104 looks unlike other likely Type Ia remnants found in our own Galaxy. While objects such as the Kepler and Tycho supernova remnants appear circular, the shape of SNR 0104 in X-rays is not. Instead, the image is dominated by two bright lobes of emission (seen to the upper right and lower left). The large amount of iron in these lobes indicates that SNR 0104 was likely formed by a Type Ia supernova.

One possible explanation for this structure is that the explosion of the white dwarf itself was strongly asymmetrical and produced two jets of iron. Another possibility is that the complicated environment seen in the image is responsible. The green shells on the left and right side of SNR 0104 correspond to surrounding material that has been swept up by the explosion. So, the unusual shape of the remnant might be caused by a lack of material to the north and south of the star to interrupt the outward path of the stellar debris. This explanation, however, is still in question and scientists hope more data from Chandra and other telescopes will help settle the debate.

The presence of a nearby massive star and the shells of gas and dust seen in the wide-field view from Spitzer shows that SNR 0104 might be located within a star-forming region. This suggests that SNR 0104 may belong to a little-studied class of so-called "prompt" Type Ia supernovas caused by the demise of younger, more massive stars than average. Again, more data will be needed to test this theory.

Fast Facts for SNR 0104-72.3:
Credit  X-ray (NASA/CXC/Penn State/S.Park & J.Lee); IR (NASA/JPL-Caltech)
Release Date  June 09, 2009
Scale  Full field image is 32.4 arcmin across
Category  Supernovas & Supernova Remnants
Coordinates (J2000)  RA | Dec
Constellation  Tucana
Observation Date  January 27, 2008
Observation Time  15 hours 20 minutes
Obs. ID  9100
Instrument  ACIS
Color Code  X-ray (Purple); IR (Green, Red)
Distance Estimate  About 190,000 light years (in the SMC)
distance arrow
Visitor Comments (16)

The Chandra website is a wonderful source, offering some additional information in their releases to explain each observation. Thank you very much for the exciting results.

Posted by Stan on Saturday, 08.14.10 @ 16:57pm

I want to say thank you for this.

Posted by Frorellan on Saturday, 10.10.09 @ 21:45pm

Julian Moore

Some theoretical models suggest that the white dwarf binary system can produce strong outflow material which significantly alters the ambient medium. The stellar
rotations might play a role there. This could affect the shape of the blast wave and/or the expelled ejecta. Because the IR data show complex "shells" and "filaments" nearby this SNR, and we see evidence for non-uniform ambient
medium around this SNR, stellar winds from the progenitor/companion star
or some outflows from the binary system could have affected the surroundings.
However, we have no direct information on the companion star's nature with the current X-ray data.

S. Park (the scientist leading the study)

Posted by S. Park on Thursday, 07.9.09 @ 10:22am

Plamen Fiziev

The size of the SNR in N-S elongation (which are mostly Fe ejecta) is ~85 light years, assuming the distance of ~200000 ly to the host galaxy SMC.

S. Park (the scientist leading the study)

Posted by S. Park on Thursday, 07.9.09 @ 10:21am

benjamin landa

Did you mean "this supernova remnant" (rather than "this galaxy")? Assuming that you mean "supernova remnant", yes, there are some other metal species than Fe that are abundantly produced in the SN explosion, e.g., O, Ne, Mg, Si, S etc. Since Type Ia SNe are the major factory to produce Fe material (also Si, S, but not much O and Ne), Fe is usually a iconic element in Type Ia SNRs. In this SNR 0104, Fe is actually the most prominent element detected in X-rays. In contrast, O and Ne are typically the most abundant elements produced in "core-collapse (Types II,Ib/c)" SNRs.

S. Park (the scientist leading the study)

Posted by S. Park on Thursday, 07.9.09 @ 10:19am

Norm Guarni

Our results point at a Type Ia SN for the origin of 0104.
Type Ia SNe are thought to be caused by an explosion of a white dwarf (WD), either by accretion from the normal companion or by merging it with another WD, when they are in a close binary system. In many cases, stars are in multiple system with two or more stars, thus it may be possible that 0104 originated from such a system. We can't provide a conclusive answer with the current data,

S. Park (the scientist leading the study)

Posted by S. Park on Thursday, 07.9.09 @ 10:18am


Posted by lucy on Thursday, 06.25.09 @ 22:27pm

Thanks space tech science, thanks NASA for your powerful work.

Posted by diakite mamadou b on Friday, 06.19.09 @ 16:25pm

It is a beautiful picture.

Posted by James Brown on Tuesday, 06.16.09 @ 12:06pm

We must wait for more data about this source to complete answer this questions guys.

Posted by Donis on Tuesday, 06.16.09 @ 09:34am

Listen, you guys are the experts, so my apologies for proposing some explanation for the irregular supernova remnant, that may be completely absurd BUT is it at all possible that this could have been a multiple star system with a minimum of three stars in very close proximity to one another, close enough to have been annihilated along with the white dwarf supernova and whose gravity caused the distortion in the resulting debris.
Thanks for all the great work.
This is one governmental area where I have no problem with my tax dollars being spent.
Have a great day

Posted by Norm Guarni on Monday, 06.15.09 @ 09:26am

Are there any other heavy metal elements that may also play a role in contributing to the sgape of this galaxy?

Posted by benjamin landa on Monday, 06.15.09 @ 01:57am

Extremely interesting.
What is the size of the double jet?

Posted by Plamen Fiziev on Thursday, 06.11.09 @ 10:51am

I'm so lucky have the chance to recognize abundant messages of the universe from this exciting wonderful good website.

Posted by chiang kuo-yan on Wednesday, 06.10.09 @ 21:00pm

As usual, the picture was terrific.
Can't wait for my grandson to see it. I've been cataloging all Chandra e-mail and photos for him in the hopes that he loves Astronomy as much as I.

Posted by bill brookings on Wednesday, 06.10.09 @ 14:43pm

Could it be a function of dwarf angular momentum fast spinners confine debris better than e. g. slow spinners tidally locked to a closer bigger more massive companion star?
Any info on the companion star accretion source?

Posted by Julian Moore on Wednesday, 06.10.09 @ 12:02pm

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