NASA Celebrates 30th Anniversary Of Supernova 1987a

Posted: Feb 25 2017, 5:47am CST | by , Updated: Feb 25 2017, 6:02am CST, in News | Latest Science News

 

NASA Celebrates 30th Anniversary of Supernova 1987a
This Hubble Space Telescope image shows Supernova 1987A within the Large Magellanic Cloud. Credit: NASA, ESA, R. Kirshner
 

To commemorate the 30th anniversary of Supernova 1987A, new set of images, time-lapse movies and animation has been released

On February 23, 1987, astronomers spotted one of the brightest exploding stars in the universe within the region of Large Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy of Milky Way. Astronomers followed this titanic supernova for next several months and observed dramatic changes in its structure. Thirty years later, NASA is commemorating the discovery of the Supernova 1987A with a new set of spectacular images, time-lapse movies and data-based animation.

Supernova 1987a is located some 160,000 light years away from the Earth and is the closest supernova observed in hundreds of years. Because of its relative proximity to our planet, supernova 1987A is by far the most studied supernova in the history of science. Almost every telescope in southern Hemisphere turned to observe this supernova immediately after its discovery, including Hubble Space Telescope, ALMA and Chandra.

The images taken throughout those years show the interaction between supernova shock wave and a glowing ring of gas encircling the supernova remnant. As the supernova shock wave blasts through the nearby debris or gas ring, the ring produce intense light. The gas ring is about one light-year across and illuminates every time the shock wave hits it. The ring was there probably 20,000 years before the star exploded.

“The 30 years' worth of observations of SN 1987A are important because they provide insight into the last stages of stellar evolution.” Robert Kirshner of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge said in a statement.

Supernova is the last evolutionary stage of a star in which a massive star explodes and brightens the cosmos. Supernovas such as SN 1987A can stir up the surrounding gas and trigger the formation of new stars and planets. The gas from which these stars and planets form will be enriched with elements such as carbon, nitrogen, oxygen and iron, which are the basic building blocks of life.

Even 30 years later, supernova 1987a is still giving astronomers an unprecedented look at what happens to a massive star before and after it explodes. Unfortunately, Hubble Space Telescope was not in operation when the supernova exploded, so the first image of the supernova was taken in August 23, 1990 and since then a treasure trove of the images of star remnant and the stunning glow of ring surrounding it has been beamed back to Earth.

 

 

 

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Hira Bashir covers daily affairs around the world.

 

 

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