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.
In many ways stars are like living beings. They’re born; they live; they die. And they even have a heartbeat. Near the end of their lifetime they begin to pulsate, increasing and decreasing their brightness by a large amount every few hundred days. Using a novel technique, astronomers have detected thousands of stellar “pulses” in the galaxy Messier 87 (M87). Their measurements offer a new way of determining a galaxy’s age.
Some supernovae have a reserve tank of radioactive cobalt-57 fuel that cuts in and powers their explosions for three times longer than astronomers had previously thought. The discovery by Australian and US researchers gives important new clues about the causes of Type Ia supernovae, which astronomers use to measure vast distances across the universe.