Even a supernova grows old

Credit: NASA, ESA and R. Kirshner (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation) and P. Challis (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics)

… in a way… And this is how it looks.

Credit: NASA, ESA and R. Kirshner (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation) and P. Challis (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics)

Thirty years ago, on 23 February 1987, the light from a stellar explosion marking the death of a massive star arrived at Earth to shine in Southern Hemisphere skies.

Located in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy of the Milky Way, SN 1987A was the closest observed supernova to Earth since the invention of the telescope. Studying it for the last 30 years has revolutionised our understanding of the explosive death of massive stars.

In operation since 1990, the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has observed the supernova remnant many times, as highlighted in this montage. The images show its evolution between 1994 and 2016, and highlight the main ring that blazes around the exploded star.

A new wide-field image was also taken by Hubble in January 2017 to mark the 30 year anniversary.

By observing the expanding remnant material over the years, Hubble has helped to show that the material within the ring was likely ejected 20 000 years before the actual explosion took place. … (ESA)

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