October 24, 2011
All that remains of the oldest documented example of a supernova, called RCW 86, is seen in this image, a combination of data from four different space telescopes to create a multi-wavelength view, released by NASA. X-ray images from the European Space Agency's XMM-Newton Observatory and NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory are combined to form the blue and green colors in the image. The X-rays show the interstellar gas that has been heated to millions of degrees by the passage of the shock wave from the supernova.Infrared data from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, as well as NASA's Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) are shown in yellow and red, and reveal dust radiating at a temperature of several hundred degrees below zero. This is the first time that this type of cavity has been seen around a white dwarf system prior to explosion. RCW 86 is approximately 8,000 light-years away. At about 85 light-years in diameter, it occupies a region of the sky in the southern constellation of Circinus that is slightly larger than the full moon.