A ring of fire forms around a new supernova

Illustration for article titled A ring of fire forms around a new supernova

A 6-trillion-mile-wide ring of gas encircles a supernova in the Large Magellanic Cloud, Supernova 1987A, and the explosions from the supernova are lighting it up like a candle, creating what will become a glowing ring.

According to the Hubble Space Telescope's news site:

An international team of astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope reports a significant brightening of the emissions from Supernova 1987A. The results, which appear in this week's Science magazine, are consistent with theoretical predictions about how supernovae interact with their immediate galactic environment.

The team observed the supernova remnant in optical, ultraviolet, and near-infrared light. They studied the interaction between the ejecta from the stellar explosion and a glowing 6-trillion-mile-diameter ring of gas encircling the supernova remnant. The gas ring was probably shed some 20,000 years before the supernova exploded. Shock waves resulting from the impact of the ejecta onto the ring have brightened 30 to 40 pearl-like "hot spots" in the ring. These blobs likely will grow and merge together in the coming years to form a continuous, glowing circle.

"We are seeing the effect a supernova can have in the surrounding galaxy, including how the energy deposited by these stellar explosions changes the dynamics and chemistry of the environment," said University of Colorado at Boulder Research Associate Kevin France of the Center for Astrophysics and Space Astronomy. "We can use these new data to understand how supernova processes regulate the evolution of galaxies."


Download a bigger version of the image at the link. [Hubble]

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Can we stop calling Supernova 1987A a "new supernova"? Whenever I see a headline like that, it always gets my hopes up that this is ACTUALLY a NEW supernova, instead of the same old supernova we've had for the last 23 years... Yes, cosmically it's still new, but think back to the car... or television... or cell phone... or home computer you had in 1987.