Spiral beauty graced by fading supernova

Mar 20, 2013
This image from ESO's Very Large Telescope at the Paranal Observatory in Chile shows NGC 1637, a spiral galaxy located about 35 million light-years away in the constellation of Eridanus (The River). In 1999 scientists discovered a Type II supernova in this galaxy and followed its slow fading over the following years. Credit: ESO

(Phys.org) —About 35 million light-years from Earth, in the constellation of Eridanus (The River), lies the spiral galaxy NGC 1637. Back in 1999 the serene appearance of this galaxy was shattered by the appearance of a very bright supernova. Astronomers studying the aftermath of this explosion with ESO's Very Large Telescope at the Paranal Observatory in Chile have provided us with a stunning view of this relatively nearby galaxy.

Supernovae are amongst the most violent events in nature. They mark the dazzling deaths of stars and can outshine the combined light of the billions of stars in their host galaxies.

In 1999 the Lick Observatory in California reported the discovery of a new supernova in the spiral galaxy NGC 1637. It was spotted using a telescope that had been specially built to search for these rare, but important . Follow-up observations were requested so that the discovery could be confirmed and studied further. This supernova was widely observed and was given the name SN 1999em. After its spectacular explosion in 1999, the supernova's brightness has been tracked carefully by scientists, showing its relatively gentle fading through the years.

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.
This video sequence starts with a view of the bright constellation of Orion (The Hunter). As we zoom in, we focus on an adjacent region of the constellation of Eridanus (The River) and a faint glow appears. This is the spiral galaxy NGC 1637, which appears in all its glory in the final view from ESO’s Very Large Telescope. In 1999 scientists discovered a Type II supernova in this galaxy and followed its slow fading over the following years. Credit: ESO/Nick Risinger (skysurvey.org). Music: movetwo

The star that became SN 1999em was very massive—more than eight times the mass of the Sun—before its death. At the end of its life its core collapsed, which then created a cataclysmic explosion.

When they were making follow up observations of SN 1999em astronomers took many pictures of this object with the VLT, which were combined to provide us with this very clear image of its , NGC 1637. The shows up in this image as a very distinct pattern of bluish trails of young stars, glowing and obscuring dust lanes.

Although at first glance NGC 1637 appears to be a fairly symmetrical object it has some interesting features. It is what astronomers classify as a lopsided spiral galaxy: the relatively loosely wound at the top left of the nucleus stretches around it much further than the more compact and shorter arm at the bottom right, which appears dramatically slashed midway through its course.

Elsewhere in the image the view is scattered with much closer stars and more distant galaxies that happen to lie in the same direction.

Explore further: Image: Multicoloured view of supernova remnant

Related Stories

Two views of a lopsided galaxy (w/ video)

May 04, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- The Meathook Galaxy, or NGC 2442, has a dramatically lopsided shape. One spiral arm is tightly folded in on itself and host to a recent supernova, while the other, dotted with recent star ...

Hubble spotted a supernova in NGC 5806

Sep 02, 2012

(Phys.org)—A new image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope shows NGC 5806, a spiral galaxy in the constellation Virgo (the Virgin). It lies around 80 million light years from Earth. Also visible in ...

The purple rose of Virgo

Mar 27, 2007

Until now NGC 5584 was just one galaxy among many others, located to the West of the Virgo Cluster. Known only as a number in galaxy surveys, its sheer beauty is now revealed in all its glory in a new VLT image. ...

Watching a star explode

Mar 23, 2012

NASA's Astronomy Picture of the Day for March 22 features a snapshot of a supernova - a massive star explosion - discovered only a week ago.

Spiral galaxies stripped bare

Oct 27, 2010

Six spectacular spiral galaxies are seen in a clear new light in images from ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) at the Paranal Observatory in Chile. The pictures were taken in infrared light, using the ...

Recommended for you

Image: Multicoloured view of supernova remnant

36 minutes ago

Most celestial events unfold over thousands of years or more, making it impossible to follow their evolution on human timescales. Supernovas are notable exceptions, the powerful stellar explosions that make ...

Ultra-luminous X-ray sources in starburst galaxies

39 minutes ago

Ultra-luminous X-ray sources (ULXs) are point sources in the sky that are so bright in X-rays that each emits more radiation than a million suns emit at all wavelengths. ULXs are rare. Most galaxies (including ...

When a bright light fades

49 minutes ago

Astronomer Charles Telesco is primarily interested in the creation of planets and stars. So, when the University of Florida's giant telescope was pointed at a star undergoing a magnificent and explosive death, ...

Image: Horsehead nebula viewed in infrared

1 hour ago

Sometimes a horse of a different color hardly seems to be a horse at all, as, for example, in this newly released image from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope. The famous Horsehead nebula makes a ghostly appearance ...

The Milky Way's new neighbour

1 hour ago

The Milky Way, the galaxy we live in, is part of a cluster of more than 50 galaxies that make up the 'Local Group', a collection that includes the famous Andromeda galaxy and many other far smaller objects. ...

Image: Hubble sweeps a messy star factory

1 hour ago

This sprinkle of cosmic glitter is a blue compact dwarf galaxy known as Markarian 209. Galaxies of this type are blue-hued, compact in size, gas-rich, and low in heavy elements. They are often used by astronomers ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.