Astronomers think that a Type Ia supernova is a thermonuclear explosion – involving the fusion of elements and release of vast amounts of energy − of a white dwarf star in a tight orbit with a companion star.
If the white dwarf’s partner is a typical, Sun-like star, the white dwarf can become unstable and explode as it draws material from its companion. Alternatively, the white dwarf is in orbit with another white dwarf, the two may merge and can trigger an explosion.
The Chandra X-ray Observatory is part of NASA’s ﬂeet of “Great Observatories” along with the Hubble Space Telescope, the Spitizer Space Telescope and the now decommissioned Compton Gamma Ray Observatory.
Chandra provides X-ray images of exotic environments to help scientists understand the structure and evolution of the Universe. The program is managed by NASA’s Marshall Center for the Science Mission Directorate, NASA Headquarters, Washington, DC.
The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is responsible for day-to-day ﬂight operations and science activities.
Bill Condie is a science journalist based in Adelaide, Australia.
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