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After almost a century of study, the puzzle of what cosmic rays are and where they come from may have been at least partially solved by X-ray images and spectra from the ASCA satellite observatory. Pieced together to show the region around a star observed to go supernova in 1006 AD, the overlapping X-ray snapshots above (seen in false color) reveal the bright rims of the exploded star's still expanding blast wave. These ASCA observations showed for the first time that the energy spectrum of the bright regions is like that produced by extremely high energy electrons streaming through a magnetic field at nearly the speed of light. If (as expected) high energy protons are associated with these energetic electrons, then supernova remnants like SN 1006 are sources of cosmic rays.
Image is courtesy of: Dr. Eric V. Gotthelf, USRA/NASA GSFC
Text is courtesy of: NASA GSFC Astronomy Picture of the Day
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This file was last modified: August 18, 2006