EYE ON THE SKY

Spot­ting an ex­plod­ing star is a chal­lenge even for modern tele­scopes, but such cat­a­strophic events do leave traces be­hind

Sky at Night Magazine - - CONTENTS -

HUB­BLE SPACE TELE­SCOPE, 26 NOVEM­BER 2018

Mas­sive stars rarely go gen­tle into that good night: the big­gest stel­lar ob­jects end their lives in gi­gan­tic, vi­o­lent ex­plo­sions known as su­per­novae. Astro­nom­i­cal records from mil­len­nia ago sug­gest they have been seen be­fore in our skies – ap­pear­ing as tem­po­rary, yet very bright ob­jects – but none has been recorded since the in­ven­tion of pow­er­ful tele­scopes. It is, af­ter all, dif­fi­cult to pre­dict when one will oc­cur.

In­stead, astronomers ob­serve su­per­nova rem­nants: the smok­ing guns left af­ter a mas­sive star has ex­ploded. The tan­gled, red fil­a­ments seen here are a su­per­nova rem­nant named SNR 0454-67.2 lo­cated in the Large Mag­el­lanic Cloud, which is a dwarf galaxy close to our own Milky Way. Once a mas­sive ball of nu­clear fu­sion, these red twists of cos­mic dust and gas are now all that re­mains.

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