Supernova remnant menagerie

Jun 07, 2005
Supernova remnant menagerie

A violent and chaotic-looking mass of gas and dust is seen in this Hubble Space Telescope image of a nearby supernova remnant. Denoted N 63A, the object is the remains of a massive star that exploded, spewing its gaseous layers out into an already turbulent region.

Image credit: NASA, ESA, HEIC, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA). Acknowledgment: Y.-H. Chu and R. M. Williams (UIUC).

The supernova remnant N 63A is a member of N 63, a star-forming region in the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC). Visible from the southern hemisphere, the LMC is an irregular galaxy lying 160,000 light-years from our own Milky Way galaxy. The LMC provides excellent examples of active star formation and supernova remnants, many of which have been studied with Hubble.

Numerous of the stars in the immediate vicinity of N 63A are extremely massive. It is estimated that the ‘mother-star’, or progenitor, of the supernova that produced the remnant seen here was about 50 times more massive than our own Sun. Such a massive star has strong stellar winds that can clear away the gas around it and form a wind-blown bubble. The supernova that formed N 63A is thought to have exploded inside the central cavity of such a wind-blown bubble, which was itself embedded in a clumpy portion of the LMC's interstellar medium.

Images in the infrared, X-ray, and radio emission of this supernova remnant show the much more expanded bubble that totally encompasses the optical emission seen by Hubble. Odd-shaped mini-clouds or cloudlets that were too dense for the stellar wind to clear away are now engulfed in the bubble interior. The supernova generated a propagating shock wave, that continues to move rapidly through the low-density bubble interior, and shocks these cloudlets, shredding them fiercely.

Supernova remnants have long been thought to set off episodes of star formation when their expanding shock encounters nearby gas. As the Hubble images have illustrated, N 63A is still young and its ruthless shocks destroy the ambient gas clouds, rather than coercing them to collapse and form stars. Data obtained at various wavelengths from other detectors reveal on-going formation of stars at 10-15 light-years from N 63A. In a few million years, the supernova ejecta from N 63A would reach this star-formation site and may be incorporated into the formation of planets around solar-type stars there, much like the early history of the solar system.

The Hubble image of N 63A is a colour representation of data taken in 1997 and 2000 with Hubble’s Wide Field Planetary Camera 2. Colour filters were used to sample light emitted by oxygen (shown in blue), hydrogen (shown in green) and sulphur (shown in red).

Links: Videos can be found at www.spacetelescope.org/videos/html/heic0507a.html and www.spacetelescope.org/videos/html/heic0507b.html

Source: ESA/Hubble Information Centre

Explore further: SpaceX ship leaves ISS for Earth loaded with lab results

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Russia turns back clocks to permanent Winter Time

14 hours ago

Russia on Sunday is set to turn back its clocks to winter time permanently in a move backed by President Vladimir Putin, reversing a three-year experiment with non-stop summer time that proved highly unpopular.

UN climate talks shuffle to a close in Bonn

14 hours ago

Concern was high at a perceived lack of urgency as UN climate negotiations shuffled towards a close in Bonn on Saturday with just 14 months left to finalise a new, global pact.

Microsoft beefs up security protection in Windows 10

19 hours ago

What Microsoft users in business care deeply about—-a system architecture that supports efforts to get their work done efficiently; a work-centric menu to quickly access projects rather than weather readings ...

Comet Siding Spring whizzes past Mars (Update)

Oct 19, 2014

A comet the size of a small mountain and about as solid as a pile of talcum powder whizzed past Mars on Sunday, dazzling space enthusiasts with the once-in-a-million-years encounter.

Recommended for you

Hinode satellite captures X-ray footage of solar eclipse

Oct 24, 2014

The moon passed between the Earth and the sun on Thursday, Oct. 23. While avid stargazers in North America looked up to watch the spectacle, the best vantage point was several hundred miles above the North ...

Asteroid 2014 SC324 zips by Earth Friday afternoon

Oct 24, 2014

What a roller coaster week it's been. If partial eclipses and giant sunspots aren't your thing, how about a close flyby of an Earth-approaching asteroid?  2014 SC324 was discovered on September 30 this ...

User comments : 0