Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Vela Supernova Remnant

Wide field X-ray image. Rosat Observatory, NASA

Space Theology bookmark Bill Blair's Vela Supernova Remnant Page

A massive star exploded in our Galaxy in the direction of the Southern constellation Vela some 11.000 years ago. Vela Supernova explosion took place only 815 ly from the Sun. In the heart of the expanding cloud is what remains of the once mighty star, a tiny but powerful pulsar.

We may assume that there was some serious cosmic radiation on Earth from that short distance. Today the remnant so dramatically visible in the Rosat Observatory X-ray image shown above is about 16 times the size of full moon.

The remarkable Pencil Nebula seen in this APOD image is located in the Vela SNR.

Year 9.000 before Christ there was absolutely no artificial light pollution so the new bright star on the sky must have been quite a spectacular sight. It was so bright that for some days it must have been clearly visible also during the day.

At the time of the massive star explosion the Neolithic Revolution was just starting in the Near East bringing with it the rise of early agriculture. It would still take some 6000 years before the time of the first high civilizations in the great river valleys of Mesopotamia, Egypt, India and China.

Archaeologists no very little about the religion and cosmology of Neotlithic people. We may assume, however, that the great interest given to heavenly objects in the earliest civilizations leaving written documents reflect very ancient traditions.

For comparison to the Vela SNR, a modern record of a supernova explosion in the constellation of Cassiopeia was made by Danish astronomer Tycho Brache in 1572. It also took place in the Milky Way but at much greater distance of 13.000 ly from the Sun. It was so bright that it remained visible during the day. In comparison, Vela supernova was just in the neighbourhood and must have been a brilliant and awesome sight.

Tycho's Supernova has been photographed by Chandra X-ray Observatory  - today the diameter of the SNR cloud is about 55 ly.

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