Great Telescopes Converge on Keplers Supernova
The last supernova in our galaxy seen from earth was described October 9, 1604, by Johannes Kepler, a few years before the invention of the telescope. Now, on the 400th anniversary of that observation, three of NASA’s “Great Observatory” orbiting telescopes – the Chandra X-Ray Observatory, the infrared Spitzer Space Telescope and the Hubble Space Telescope – have joined forces to produce a combined image of the expanding shell of this exploded star. The supernova remnant is now spread out 14 light-years wide and is still expanding at 4 million miles per hour, according to the press release at Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The press release has links to the telescope sites.
Like fireworks, supernovae are fun to watch from a safe distance. Michael Shirber in an article on Space.Com confirms a claim in the new film The Privileged Planet that certain parts of the galaxy are dangerous (see 09/01/2004 headline). He mentions a study that shows the galactic center is subject to deadly radiation from exploding giant stars. “Anyone looking for signs of extraterrestrial life,” he says, “need not look in the center of our galaxy.” Fortunately, earth is situated about 25,000 light-years away, where starbursts are rare.