These delicate yet fast-moving filaments of gas belong to a supernova remnant designated as 1E 0102.2-7219, which resulted from the destruction of a massive star long ago in the Small Magellanic Cloud, 200,000 light years away.
Astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope trace a supernova’s history by measuring how fast left over debris is moving, concluding light from the blast reached Earth during the decline of the Roman Empire 1,700 years ago.
A supernova remnant in the Large Magellanic cloud, imaged by the Hubble Space Telescope in 2006, shows the spectacular aftermath of a supernova blast, generating a cloud of debris expanding at 18 million kilometres per hour (11 million mph).
Astronomers have found an “ultra-stripped supernova” that created a second neutron star in a tight binary system, matching theoretical predictions for how such binaries are formed in otherwise disruptive blasts.
Eta Carinae, one of the brightest, most massive stars in the Milky Way, famously erupted 170 years ago, producing huge clouds of expanding debris. Astronomers studying light echoes from the blast may have found an explanation.