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.

2024 April 3
A nebula is shown that appears like a firework. Radial
filaments connect a glowing halo to a star in the center
that appears as a blue dot. 
Please see the explanation for more detailed information.

Unusual Nebula Pa 30
Image Credit: NASA, ESA, USAF, NSF;
Processing: G. Ferrand (U. Manitoba), J. English (U. Manitoba), R. A. Fesen (Dartmouth), C. Treyturik (U. Manitoba);
Text: G. Ferrand & J. English

Explanation: What created this unusual celestial firework? The nebula, dubbed Pa 30, appears in the same sky direction now as a bright "guest star" did in the year 1181. Although Pa 30's filaments look similar to that created by a nova (for example GK Per), and a planetary nebula (for example NGC 6751), some astronomers now propose that it was created by a rare type of supernova: a thermonuclear Type Iax, and so is (also) named SN 1181. In this model, the supernova was not the result of the detonation of a single star, but rather a blast that occurred when two white dwarf stars spiraled together and merged. The blue dot in the center is hypothesized to be a zombie star, the remnant white dwarf that somehow survived this supernova-level explosion. The featured image combines images and data obtained with infrared (WISE), visible (MDM, Pan-STARRS), and X-ray (Chandra, XMM) telescopes. Future observations and analyses may tell us more.

NASA Coverage: Total Solar Eclipse of 2024 April 8
Tomorrow's picture: the comet at night

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