Image: Hubble sees a star set to explode

Jan 20, 2014
Credit: NASA

(Phys.org) —Floating at the center of this new Hubble image is a lidless purple eye, staring back at us through space. This ethereal object, known officially as [SBW2007] 1 but sometimes nicknamed SBW1, is a nebula with a giant star at its center. The star was originally twenty times more massive than our sun, and is now encased in a swirling ring of purple gas, the remains of the distant era when it cast off its outer layers via violent pulsations and winds.

But the star is not just any star; scientists say that it is destined to go supernova. Twenty-six years ago, another star with striking similarities went supernova—SN 1987A. Early Hubble images of SN 1987A show eerie similarities to SBW1.

Both stars had identical rings of the same size and age, which were travelling at similar speeds; both were located in similar HII regions; and they had the same brightness. In this way SBW1 is a snapshot of SN1987a's appearance before it exploded, and unsurprisingly, astronomers love studying them together.

At a distance of more than 20 000 light-years it will be safe to watch when the supernova goes off. If we are very lucky it may happen in our own lifetimes.

Explore further: New technique for isolating sunny-day 'light' scattering could help illuminate Universe's birth

Related Stories

Hubble catches stellar explosions in NGC 6984

Nov 08, 2013

Supernovae are intensely bright objects. They are formed when a star reaches the end of its life with a dramatic explosion, expelling most of its material out into space.

Space image: New supernova remnant lights up

Sep 13, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- Using the Hubble Space Telescope, astronomers are witnessing the unprecedented transition of a supernova to a supernova remnant, where light from an exploding star in a neighboring galaxy, ...

New supernova remnant lights up

Jun 08, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- In 1987, light from an exploding star in a neighboring galaxy, the Large Magellanic Cloud, reached Earth. Named Supernova 1987A, it was the closest supernova explosion witnessed in almost ...

How the largest star known is tearing itself apart

Oct 16, 2013

(Phys.org) —An international team of astronomers has observed part of the final death throes of the largest known star in the universe as it throws off its outer layers. The discovery, by a collaboration ...

Hubble sees the remains of a star gone supernova

May 03, 2013

(Phys.org) —These delicate wisps of gas make up an object known as SNR B0519-69.0, or SNR 0519 for short. The thin, blood-red shells are actually the remnants from when an unstable progenitor star exploded ...

Recommended for you

NASA telescopes set limits on space-time quantum 'foam'

18 hours ago

A team of scientists has used X-ray and gamma-ray observations of some of the most distant objects in the universe to better understand the nature of space and time. Their results set limits on the quantum ...

Shining message about the end of the Dark Ages

21 hours ago

An international team, including researchers from the Centre for Astronomy of Heidelberg University (ZAH), has discovered three "cosmic Methusalems" from the earliest years of the universe. These unusual stars are about 13 ...

The kinematics of merging galaxies

21 hours ago

The unprecedented sensitivity of space telescopes has powered a revolution over the past decade in our understanding of galaxies in the young universe during its first billion years of existence. These primitive ...

Hubble video shows shock collision inside black hole jet

May 27, 2015

When you're blasting though space at more than 98 percent of the speed of light, you may need driver's insurance. Astronomers have discovered for the first time a rear-end collision between two high-speed ...

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.