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 fertile breeding ground
for new stars.
In a few years the supernova's
fast moving material will sweep the inner ring
with full force, heating and exciting its gas,
and will produce a new series of cosmic fireworks
that will offer a striking view for more than
Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)
Acknowledgment: R. Kirshner (Harvard/CfA), N.
Panagia (STScI), and M. Romaniello (ESO)