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Fireworks Mark Chandra X-Ray Telescope’s 15th Birthday

Chinese astronomers and others around the world witnessed the creation of the Crab Nebula by a supernova explosion in the year 1054. This new image from Chandra shows a rapidly rotating neutron star, or pulsar, spewing out a blizzard of high-energy particles. Lower-energy X-rays are shown in red, medium energy in green, and high energy in blue. Chandra X-ray Observatory Center

What better way to celebrate a 15-year-old's birthday in July than with a fireworks show? And if the teenager happens to be NASA's Chandra X-Ray Observatory, the fireworks should be downright cosmic.

To celebrate Chandra's deployment from the shuttle Columbia on July 23, 1999, the telescope team is releasing four new pictures of supernova remnants: the Crab Nebula, Tycho, G292.0+1.8 and 3C58. Chandra's X-ray vision is well-suited to reveal the hot spots in those celestial blast zones.

"Chandra changed the way we do astronomy," Paul Hertz, NASA's Astrophysics Division director, said in a news release on Tuesday. "We're fortunate we've had 15 years — so far — to use Chandra to advance our understanding of stars, galaxies, black holes, dark energy and the origin of the elements necessary for life."

To mark the anniversary, Chandra scientists will participate in a Google+ Hangout starting at 3 p.m. ET Tuesday.

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Image: Tycho supernova remnant
This Chandra X-ray image of the Tycho supernova remnant reveals the dynamics of a stellar explosion that was first observed more than four centuries ago. The outer shock has produced a rapidly moving shell of extremely high-energy electrons (blue), and the reverse shock has heated the expanding debris to millions of degrees (red and green). Chandra X-ray Observatory Center
Image: 3C58
3C58 is the remnant of a supernova observed in the year 1181 by Chinese and Japanese astronomers. This new Chandra image shows the center of 3C58, which contains a rapidly spinning neutron star surrounded by a thick ring of X-ray emission. The pulsar also has produced jets of X-rays blasting away from it to both the left and right, and extending trillions of miles. Chandra X-ray Observatory Center
Image: G292.0+1.8
At a distance of about 20,000 light years, G292.0+1.8 is one of only three supernova remnants in the Milky Way known to contain large amounts of oxygen. This X-ray image from Chandra shows a rapidly expanding debris field that contains, along with oxygen (yellow and orange), other elements such as magnesium (green) and silicon and sulfur (blue) that were forged in the star before it exploded. Chandra X-ray Observatory Center