Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/Rutgers/K.Eriksen et al.; Optical: DSS

A cosmic puffball seems to float in this image of the Tycho Supernova Remnant from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory.

You won’t need 3-D glasses to explore this deep image. Cotton-like clouds of dust and gas can be seen in the expanding bubble from the blast. Look closer in the right side of the bubble and you can see what excites scientists most about this image; stripes in the X-ray image. The brightest stripes can even be seen in visible images. Astronomers have never seen features like this within the remains of an exploded star. They believe the stripes help explain how cosmic rays are created.

Cosmic rays are energetic particles made up of electrons, neutrons and atomic nuclei. Traveling at nearly the speed of light, they originate from space. But their ultimate source is unknown. Astronomers believe that supernovae remnants are one source of cosmic rays.

The stripes in the image provide support for theories about how magnetic fields can be amplified in the supernova blast waves. Electrons trapped in turbulent areas of the expanding bubble surrounding the supernova emit X-rays as they spiral within the magnetic fields. These regions of turbulence and magnetic fields were expected. Scientists predicted that most of the energetic particles would leave a messy network of holes and walls. The orderly stripes surprised scientists.

The Tycho Supernova Remnant is located inside our Milky Way Galaxy about 13,000 light-years from Earth toward the constellation Cassiopeia, the Queen. Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe first reported seeing the supernova in 1572. It was so bright that it could easily be seen during the daytime with the naked eye.