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Hubble Heritage Archive: Supernova 1987A

20 Aug 2020, 12:00 UTC
Hubble Heritage Archive: Supernova 1987A
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The text and images in this article were originally published on February 4, 1999 and reflect information about SN1987A available at that time.

SN 1987A in the Large Magellanic Cloud

Glittering stars and wisps of gas create a breathtaking backdrop for the self-destruction of a massive star—called supernova 1987A—in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a nearby galaxy. Astronomers in the Southern hemisphere witnessed the brilliant explosion of this star on Feb. 23, 1987.

Shown in this NASA Hubble Space Telescope image, the supernova remnant, surrounded by inner and outer rings of material, is set in a forest of ethereal, diffuse clouds of gas. This three-color image is composed of several pictures of the supernova and its neighboring region taken with the Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2 in Sept. 1994, Feb. 1996 and July 1997.

The many bright blue stars nearby the supernova are massive stars, each more than six times heftier than our Sun. With ages of about 12 million years old, they are members of the same generation of stars as the star that went supernova. The presence of bright gas clouds is another sign of the youth of this region, which still appears to be a ...

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