Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2003 July 4
See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download
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N49's Cosmic Blast
Credit: Hubble Heritage Team (STScI / AURA), Y. Chu (UIUC) et al., NASA

Explanation: Scattered debris from a cosmic supernova explosion lights up the sky in this gorgeous composited image based on data from the Hubble Space Telescope. Cataloged as N49, these glowing filaments of shocked gas span about 30 light-years in our neighboring galaxy, the Large Magellanic Cloud. Light from the original exploding star reached Earth thousands of years ago, but N49 also marks the location of another energetic outburst -- an extremely intense blast of gamma-rays detected by satellites on March 5, 1979. That date was the beginning of an exciting journey in astrophysics which led researchers to the understanding of an exotic new class of stars. The source of the "March 5th Event" is now attributed to a magnetar - a highly magnetized, spinning neutron star also born in the ancient stellar explosion which created supernova remnant N49. The magnetar hurtles through the supernova debris cloud at over 1,200 kilometers per second.

Tomorrow's picture: active galaxy

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