Long streamers of gas glow in the Large Magellanic cloud, remnants of a supernova blast that destroyed a white dwarf in a Type 1a supernova. Its remnants are known as SNR 0454-67.2. Such explosions occur when a white dwarf sucks in enough material from a companion star to reach a critical mass, triggering a catastrophic core collapse, rebound and shock wave that blows the star apart. Its remnants are blasted into the surrounding space, including heavy elements that were cooked up in the detonation. Because Type 1a supernovas all occur in the same fashion, they shine with a known brightness, or luminosity, that can be used to determine their distance. Such supernovae are known as “standard candles” and they are critical to modern cosmology, helping astronomers measure changes in the acceleration of the universe’s expansion due to dark energy.
NGC 4639 is a beautiful example of a type of galaxy known as a barred spiral. It lies over 70 million light-years away in the constellation of Virgo and is one of about 1500 galaxies that make up the Virgo Cluster. But NGC 4639 also conceals a dark secret in its core — a massive black hole that is consuming the surrounding gas and known as an active galactic nucleus (AGN).
Combining images taken with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope over more than 20 years, a team of researchers has discovered that Eta Carinae, a very massive star system that has puzzled astronomers since it erupted in a supernova-like event in the mid-19th century, has a past that’s much more violent than they thought.