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.

2012 February 27
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Shocked by Supernova 1987A
Image Credit: Hubble Space Telescope, NASA, ESA; Video compilation: Mark McDonald

Explanation: Twenty five years ago, the brightest supernova of modern times was sighted. Over time, astronomers have watched and waited for the expanding debris from this tremendous stellar explosion to crash into previously expelled material. A clear result of such a collision is demonstrated in the above time lapse video of images recorded by the Hubble Space Telescope between 1994 and 2009. The movie depicts the collision of an outward moving blast wave with the pre-existing, light-year wide ring. The collision occurred at speeds near 60 million kilometers per hour and shock-heats the ring material causing it to glow. Astronomers continue to study the collision as it illuminates the interesting past of SN 1987A, and provides clues to the origin of the mysterious rings.

Gallery: Jupiter-Venus-Moon Conjunction
Tomorrow's picture: opposing comet

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