Combined data from NASAs Chandra X-ray Observatory and infrared observations with the Palomar 200-inch telescope have uncovered evidence that a gamma-ray burst, one of natures most catastrophic explosions, occurred in our Galaxy a few thousand years ago. The supernova remnant, W49B, may also be the first remnant of a gamma-ray burst discovered in the Milky Way.
Photo: Composite image of the supernova remnant W49B (X-ray: NASA/CXC/SSC/J. Keohane et al.; Infrared: Caltech/Palomar/J.Keohane et al.)
W49B is a barrel-shaped nebula located about 35,000 light years from Earth. The new data reveal bright infrared rings, like hoops around a barrel, and intense X-radiation from iron and nickel along the axis of the barrel.
"These results provide intriguing evidence that an extremely massive star exploded in two powerful, oppositely directed jets that were rich in iron," said Jonathan Keohane of NASAs Jet Propulsion Laboratory at a press conference at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Denver. "This makes W49B a prime candidate for being the remnant of a gamma ray burst involving a black hole collapsar."
Steve Roy | MSFC
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