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HubbleSite Shock Wave Sheds New Light on Fading Supernova

  • Thread starter Space Telescope Science
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Space Telescope Science

The Hubble telescope is giving astronomers a ringside seat to a never-before-seen titanic collision of an onrushing stellar shock wave with an eerie glowing gas ring encircling a nearby stellar explosion, called supernova 1987A.

Though the star's self-destruction was first seen nearly 11 years ago on Feb. 23, 1987, astronomers are just now beginning to witness its tidal wave of energy reaching the "shoreline" of the immense light-year-wide ring. Shocked by the 40-million-mile-per-hour sledgehammer blow, a 100-billion-mile-wide knot of gas in a piece of the ring has already begun to "light up," as its temperature surges from a few thousand degrees to a million degrees Fahrenheit. For comparison, the Hubble image on the left was taken before the collision. The picture on the right shows a glowing ball of gas [denoted by arrow].

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