A seemingly delicate bubble of gas photographed by the Hubble Space Telescope in 2006 captures the aftermath of a supernova in the Large Magellanic Cloud some 160,000 light years from Earth’s Milky Way. The remnants of the doomed star form a ring-like structure 23 light years across expanding through space at 18 million kilometres per hour (11 million mph). The remnant, known as SNR 0509, features ripples in the bubble’s surface that may be the result of density variations or collisions with debris from the original explosion. This image was captured by Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys using a filter that isolates the glowing hydrogen in the expanding shell. Visible light images of the surrounding star field were taken by Hubble’s Wide Field Camera.
With a temperature of 250,000 °C — 45 times that at the surface of our Sun — astronomers believe that this dying star in the outskirts of the Milky Way may have peaked at 400,000 °C a thousand years ago. The researchers were also the first to observe an intergalactic gas cloud moving towards the Milky Way — indicating that galaxies collect fresh material from deep space, which they can use to make new stars.