A blast from the past

Composite image of supernova SN 1987A

It’s been 30 years since a giant star in the Large Magellanic Cloud exploded; the nearest supernova explosion recorded in hundreds of years. To mark the 30th anniversary of this cosmic observation, images from ground- and space-based telescopes have been combined to reveal the evolution of SN1987A.

This new multi-wavelength image, released on 24th February 2017, shows how the material in the glowing ring has brightened over time as it slams into the expanding supernova shock wave.

The Hubble Space Telescope has been a major player in monitoring the explosive history of this stellar corpse and has helped astronomers in their understanding of these dynamic objects. Hubble data have revealed how supernovae alter the chemistry of the space environment surrounding their extinct stellar progenitors. SN1987A has become the most studied supernova in history, meaning we now more about the death of massive stars than ever before.

Hubble: NASA, ESA, R. Kirshner (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation) and P. Challis (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics)
Chandra: NASA/CXC/Penn State/K. Frank et al.

© Melanie Davies 2017

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