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Astronomy Picture of the Day
Search Results for "supernova"




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Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2024 April 16 – Filaments of the Vela Supernova Remnant
Explanation: The explosion is over, but the consequences continue. About eleven thousand years ago, a star in the constellation of Vela could be seen to explode, creating a strange point of light briefly visible to humans living near the beginning of recorded history. The outer layers of the star crashed into the interstellar medium, driving a shock wave that is still visible today. The featured image captures some of that filamentary and gigantic shock in visible light. As gas flies away from the detonated star, it decays and reacts with the interstellar medium, producing light in many different colors and energy bands. Remaining at the center of the Vela Supernova Remnant is a pulsar, a star as dense as nuclear matter that spins around more than ten times in a single second.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2024 March 25 – Sonified: The Jellyfish Nebula Supernova Remnant
Explanation: What does a supernova remnant sound like? Although sound is a compression wave in matter and does not carry into empty space, interpretive sound can help listeners appreciate and understand a visual image of a supernova remnant in a new way. Recently, the Jellyfish Nebula (IC 443) has been sonified quite creatively. In the featured sound-enhanced video, when an imaginary line passes over a star, the sound of a drop falling into water is played, a sound particularly relevant to the nebula's aquatic namesake. Additionally, when the descending line crosses gas that glows red, a low tone is played, while green sounds a middle tone, and blue produces a tone with a relatively high pitch. Light from the supernova that created the Jellyfish Nebula left approximately 35,000 years ago, when humanity was in the stone age. The nebula will slowly disperse over the next million years, although the explosion also created a dense neutron star which will remain indefinitely.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2024 February 27 – Supernova Remnant Simeis 147
Explanation: It's easy to get lost following the intricate, looping, and twisting filaments of supernova remnant Simeis 147. Also cataloged as Sharpless 2-240, the filamentary nebula goes by the popular nickname the Spaghetti Nebula. Seen toward the boundary of the constellations of the Bull (Taurus) and the Charioteer (Auriga), the impressive gas structure covers nearly 3 degrees on the sky, equivalent to 6 full moons. That's about 150 light-years at the stellar debris cloud's estimated distance of 3,000 light-years. This composite image includes data taken through narrow-band filters isolating emission from hydrogen (red) and oxygen (blue) glowing gas. The supernova remnant has an estimated age of about 40,000 years, meaning light from this massive stellar explosion first reached the Earth when woolly mammoths roamed free. Besides the expanding remnant, this cosmic catastrophe left behind a pulsar, a spinning neutron star that is the remnant of the original star's core.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2024 February 23 - The Pencil Nebula Supernova Shock Wave
Explanation: This supernova shock wave plows through interstellar space at over 500,000 kilometers per hour. Centered and moving upward in the sharply detailed color composite its thin, bright, braided filaments are actually long ripples in a cosmic sheet of glowing gas seen almost edge-on. Discovered in the 1840s by Sir John Herschel, the narrow-looking nebula is sometimes known as Herschel's Ray. Cataloged as NGC 2736, its pointed appearance suggests its modern popular name, the Pencil Nebula. The Pencil Nebula is about 800 light-years away. Nearly 5 light-years long it represents only a small part of the Vela supernova remnant though. The enormous Vela remnant itself is around 100 light-years in diameter, the expanding debris cloud of a star that was seen to explode about 11,000 years ago. Initially, the section of the shock wave seen as the Pencil nebula was moving at millions of kilometers per hour but has slowed considerably, sweeping up surrounding interstellar material.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2023 December 26 – IC 443: The Jellyfish Nebula
Explanation: Why is this jellyfish swimming in a sea of stars? Drifting near bright star Eta Geminorum, seen at the right, the Jellyfish Nebula extends its tentacles from the bright arcing ridge of emission left of center. In fact, the cosmic jellyfish is part of bubble-shaped supernova remnant IC 443, the expanding debris cloud from a massive star that exploded. Light from the explosion first reached planet Earth over 30,000 years ago. Like its cousin in astronomical waters, the Crab Nebula supernova remnant IC 443 is known to harbor a neutron star -- the remnant of the collapsed stellar core. The Jellyfish Nebula is about 5,000 light-years away. At that distance, the featured image would span about 140 light-years across.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2023 December 14 - Supernova Remnant Cassiopeia A
Explanation: Massive stars in our Milky Way Galaxy live spectacular lives. Collapsing from vast cosmic clouds, their nuclear furnaces ignite and create heavy elements in their cores. After only a few million years for the most massive stars, the enriched material is blasted back into interstellar space where star formation can begin anew. The expanding debris cloud known as Cassiopeia A is an example of this final phase of the stellar life cycle. Light from the supernova explosion that created this remnant would have been first seen in planet Earth's sky about 350 years ago, although it took that light 11,000 years to reach us. This sharp NIRCam image from the James Webb Space Telescope shows the still hot filaments and knots in the supernova remnant. The whitish, smoke-like outer shell of the expanding blast wave is about 20 light-years across. Light echoes from the massive star's cataclysmic explosion are also identified in Webb's detailed image of supernova remnant Cassiopeia A.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2023 November 21 – Flemings Triangular Wisp
Explanation: These chaotic and tangled filaments of shocked, glowing gas are spread across planet Earth's sky toward the constellation of Cygnus as part of the Veil Nebula. The Veil Nebula itself is a large supernova remnant, an expanding cloud born of the death explosion of a massive star. Light from the original supernova explosion likely reached Earth over 5,000 years ago. The glowing filaments are really more like long ripples in a sheet seen almost edge on, remarkably well separated into the glow of ionized hydrogen atoms shown in red and oxygen in blue hues. Also known as the Cygnus Loop and cataloged as NGC 6979, the Veil Nebula now spans about 6 times the diameter of the full Moon. The length of the wisp corresponds to about 30 light years, given its estimated distance of 2,400 light years. Often identified as Pickering's Triangle for a director of Harvard College Observatory, it is perhaps better named for its discoverer, astronomer Williamina Fleming, as Fleming's Triangular Wisp.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2023 October 11 – NGC 1097: Spiral Galaxy with Supernova
Explanation: What's happening in the lower arm of this spiral galaxy? A supernova. Last month, supernova SN 2023rve was discovered with UAE's Al-Khatim Observatory and later found to be consistent with the death explosion of a massive star, possibly leaving behind a black hole. Spiral galaxy NGC 1097 is a relatively close 45 million light years away and visible with a small telescope toward the southern constellation of the Furnace (Fornax). The galaxy is notable not only for its picturesque spiral arms, but also for faint jets consistent with ancient star streams left over from a galactic collision -- possibly with the small galaxy seen between its arms on the lower left. The featured image highlights the new supernova by blinking between two exposures taken several months apart. Finding supernovas in nearby galaxies can be important in determining the scale and expansion rate of our entire universe -- a topic currently of unexpected tension and much debate.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2023 August 6 – SN 1006: A Supernova Ribbon from Hubble
Explanation: What created this unusual space ribbon? The answer: one of the most violent explosions ever witnessed by ancient humans. Back in the year 1006 AD, light reached Earth from a stellar explosion in the constellation of the Wolf (Lupus), creating a "guest star" in the sky that appeared brighter than Venus and lasted for over two years. The supernova, now cataloged at SN 1006, occurred about 7,000 light years away and has left a large remnant that continues to expand and fade today. Pictured here is a small part of that expanding supernova remnant dominated by a thin and outwardly moving shock front that heats and ionizes surrounding ambient gas. The supernova remnant SN 1006 now has a diameter of nearly 60 light years.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2023 May 22 – Supernova Discovered in Nearby Spiral Galaxy M101
Explanation: A nearby star has exploded and humanity's telescopes are turning to monitor it. The supernova, dubbed SN 2023ixf, was discovered by Japanese astronomer Koichi Itagaki three days ago and subsequently located on automated images from the Zwicky Transient Facility two days earlier. SN 2023ixf occurred in the photogenic Pinwheel Galaxy M101, which, being only about 21 million light years away, makes it the closest supernova seen in the past five years, the second closest in the past 10 years, and the second supernova found in M101 in the past 15 years. Rapid follow up observations already indicate that SN 2023ixf is a Type II supernova, an explosion that occurs after a massive star runs out of nuclear fuel and collapses. The featured image shows home spiral galaxy two days ago with the supernova highlighted, while the roll-over image shows the same galaxy a month before. SN 2023ixf will likely brighten and remain visible to telescopes for months. Studying such a close and young Type II supernova may yield new clues about massive stars and how they explode.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2023 April 24 – The Medulla Nebula Supernova Remnant
Explanation: What powers this unusual nebula? CTB-1 is the expanding gas shell that was left when a massive star toward the constellation of Cassiopeia exploded about 10,000 years ago. The star likely detonated when it ran out of elements near its core that could create stabilizing pressure with nuclear fusion. The resulting supernova remnant, nicknamed the Medulla Nebula for its brain-like shape, still glows in visible light by the heat generated by its collision with confining interstellar gas. Why the nebula also glows in X-ray light, though, remains a mystery. One hypothesis holds that an energetic pulsar was co-created that powers the nebula with a fast outwardly moving wind. Following this lead, a pulsar has recently been found in radio waves that appears to have been expelled by the supernova explosion at over 1000 kilometers per second. Although the Medulla Nebula appears as large as a full moon, it is so faint that it took many hours of exposure with a telescope in Seven Persons, Alberta, Canada to create the featured image.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2023 March 3 - RCW 86: Historical Supernova Remnant
Explanation: In 185 AD, Chinese astronomers recorded the appearance of a new star in the Nanmen asterism. That part of the sky is identified with Alpha and Beta Centauri on modern star charts. The new star was visible to the naked-eye for months, and is now thought to be the earliest recorded supernova. This deep telescopic view reveals the wispy outlines of emission nebula RCW 86, just visible against the starry background, understood to be the remnant of that stellar explosion. Captured by the wide-field Dark Energy Camera operating at Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile, the image traces the full extent of a ragged shell of gas ionized by the still expanding shock wave. Space-based images indicate an abundance of the element iron in RCW 86 and the absence of a neutron star or pulsar within the remnant, suggesting that the original supernova was Type Ia. Unlike the core collapse supernova explosion of a massive star, a Type Ia supernova is a thermonuclear detonation on a white dwarf star that accretes material from a companion in a binary star system. Near the plane of our Milky Way galaxy and larger than the full moon on the sky this supernova remnant is too faint to be seen by eye though. RCW 86 is some 8,000 light-years distant and around 100 light-years across.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2022 November 29 - The Gum Nebula Supernova Remnant
Explanation: Because the Gum Nebula is the closest supernova remnant, it is actually hard to see. Spanning 40 degrees across the sky, the nebula appears so large and faint that it is easily lost in the din of a bright and complex background. The Gum Nebula is highlighted nicely in red emission toward the right of the featured wide-angle, single-image photograph taken in late May. Also visible in the frame are the Atacama Desert in Chile in the foreground, the Carina Nebula in the plane of our Milky Way galaxy running diagonally down from the upper left, and the neighboring Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) galaxy. The Gum Nebula is so close that we are much nearer the front edge than the back edge, each measuring 450 and 1500 light years respectively. The complicated nebula lies in the direction of the constellations of Puppis and Vela. Oddly, much remains unknown about the Gum Nebula, including the timing and even number of supernova explosions that formed it.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2022 October 2 - Supernova Cannon Expels Pulsar J0002
Explanation: What could shoot out a neutron star like a cannon ball? A supernova. About 10,000 years ago, the supernova that created the nebular remnant CTB 1 not only destroyed a massive star but blasted its newly formed neutron star core -- a pulsar -- out into the Milky Way Galaxy. The pulsar, spinning 8.7 times a second, was discovered using downloadable software Einstein@Home searching through data taken by NASA's orbiting Fermi Gamma-Ray Observatory. Traveling over 1,000 kilometers per second, the pulsar PSR J0002+6216 (J0002 for short) has already left the supernova remnant CTB 1, and is even fast enough to leave our Galaxy. Pictured, the trail of the pulsar is visible extending to the lower left of the supernova remnant. The featured image is a combination of radio images from the VLA and DRAO radio observatories, as well as data archived from NASA's orbiting IRAS infrared observatory. It is well known that supernovas can act as cannons, and even that pulsars can act as cannonballs -- what is not known is how supernovas do it.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2022 June 22 - Supernova Remnant: The Veil Nebula
Explanation: Ten thousand years ago, before the dawn of recorded human history, a new light would have suddenly have appeared in the night sky and faded after a few weeks. Today we know this light was from a supernova, or exploding star, and record the expanding debris cloud as the Veil Nebula, a supernova remnant. Imaged with color filters featuring light emitted by sulfur (red), hydrogen (green), and oxygen (blue), this deep wide-angle view was processed to remove the stars and so better capture the impressive glowing filaments of the Veil. Also known as the Cygnus Loop, the Veil Nebula is roughly circular in shape and covers nearly 3 degrees on the sky toward the constellation of the Swan (Cygnus). Famous nebular sections include the Bat Nebula, the Witch's Broom Nebula, and Fleming's Triangular Wisp. The complete supernova remnant lies about 1,400 light-years away.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2022 May 28 - RCW 86: Historical Supernova Remnant
Explanation: In 185 AD, Chinese astronomers recorded the appearance of a new star in the Nanmen asterism. That part of the sky is identified with Alpha and Beta Centauri on modern star charts. The new star was visible for months and is thought to be the earliest recorded supernova. This deep image shows emission nebula RCW 86, understood to be the remnant of that stellar explosion. The narrowband data trace gas ionized by the still expanding shock wave. Space-based images indicate an abundance of the element iron and lack of a neutron star or pulsar in the remnant, suggesting that the original supernova was Type Ia. Unlike the core collapse supernova explosion of a massive star, a Type Ia supernova is a thermonuclear detonation on a a white dwarf star that accretes material from a companion in a binary star system. Near the plane of our Milky Way galaxy and larger than a full moon on the sky this supernova remnant is too faint to be seen by eye though. RCW 86 is some 8,000 light-years distant and around 100 light-years across.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2022 January 13 - Supernova Remnant Simeis 147
Explanation: It's easy to get lost following the intricate, looping, twisting filaments in this detailed image of supernova remnant Simeis 147. Also cataloged as Sharpless 2-240 it goes by the popular nickname, the Spaghetti Nebula. Seen toward the boundary of the constellations Taurus and Auriga, it covers nearly 3 degrees or 6 full moons on the sky. That's about 150 light-years at the stellar debris cloud's estimated distance of 3,000 light-years. This composite includes image data taken through narrow-band filters where reddish emission from ionized hydrogen atoms and doubly ionized oxygen atoms in faint blue-green hues trace the shocked, glowing gas. The supernova remnant has an estimated age of about 40,000 years, meaning light from the massive stellar explosion first reached Earth 40,000 years ago. But the expanding remnant is not the only aftermath. The cosmic catastrophe also left behind a spinning neutron star or pulsar, all that remains of the original star's core.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2021 November 2 - SN Requiem: A Supernova Seen Three Times So Far
Explanation: We've seen this same supernova three times -- when will we see it a fourth? When a distant star explodes in a supernova, we're lucky if we see it even once. In the case of AT 2016jka ("SN Requiem"), because the exploding star happened to be lined up behind the center of a galaxy cluster (MACS J0138 in this case), a comparison of Hubble Space Telescope images demonstrate that we saw it three times. These three supernova images are highlighted in circles near the bottom of the left frame taken in 2016. On the right frame, taken in 2019, the circles are empty because all three images of the single supernova had faded. Computer modeling of the cluster lens, however, indicates that a fourth image of the same supernova should eventually appear in the upper circle on the right image. But when? The best models predict this will happen in 2037, but this date is uncertain by about two years because of ambiguities in the mass distribution of the cluster lens and the brightness history of the stellar explosion. With refined predictions and vigilant monitoring, Earthlings living 16 years from now may be able to catch this fourth image -- and perhaps learn more about both galaxy clusters and supernovas at once.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2021 July 22 - NGC 7814: Little Sombrero with Supernova
Explanation: Point your telescope toward the high flying constellation Pegasus and you can find this expanse of Milky Way stars and distant galaxies. NGC 7814 is centered in the pretty field of view that would almost be covered by a full moon. NGC 7814 is sometimes called the Little Sombrero for its resemblance to the brighter more famous M104, the Sombrero Galaxy. Both Sombrero and Little Sombrero are spiral galaxies seen edge-on, and both have extensive halos and central bulges cut by a thin disk with thinner dust lanes in silhouette. In fact, NGC 7814 is some 40 million light-years away and an estimated 60,000 light-years across. That actually makes the Little Sombrero about the same physical size as its better known namesake, appearing smaller and fainter only because it is farther away. In this telescopic view from July 17, NGC 7814 is hosting a newly discovered supernova, dominant immediately to the left of the galaxy's core. Cataloged as SN 2021rhu, the stellar explosion has been identified as a Type Ia supernova, useful toward calibrating the distance scale of the universe.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2021 April 14 - The Pencil Nebula Supernova Shock Wave
Explanation: This supernova shock wave plows through interstellar space at over 500,000 kilometers per hour. Near the middle and moving up in this sharply detailed color composite, thin, bright, braided filaments are actually long ripples in a cosmic sheet of glowing gas seen almost edge-on. Cataloged as NGC 2736, its elongated appearance suggests its popular name, the Pencil Nebula. The Pencil Nebula is about 5 light-years long and 800 light-years away, but represents only a small part of the Vela supernova remnant. The Vela remnant itself is around 100 light-years in diameter, the expanding debris cloud of a star that was seen to explode about 11,000 years ago. Initially, the shock wave was moving at millions of kilometers per hour but has slowed considerably, sweeping up surrounding interstellar material. In the featured narrow-band, wide field image, red and blue colors track, primarily, the characteristic glows of ionized hydrogen and oxygen atoms, respectively.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2021 April 5 - Veil Nebula: Wisps of an Exploded Star
Explanation: Wisps like this are all that remain visible of a Milky Way star. About 7,000 years ago that star exploded in a supernova leaving the Veil Nebula. At the time, the expanding cloud was likely as bright as a crescent Moon, remaining visible for weeks to people living at the dawn of recorded history. Today, the resulting supernova remnant, also known as the Cygnus Loop, has faded and is now visible only through a small telescope directed toward the constellation of the Swan (Cygnus). The remaining Veil Nebula is physically huge, however, and even though it lies about 1,400 light-years distant, it covers over five times the size of the full Moon. The featured picture is a Hubble Space Telescope mosaic of six images together covering a span of only about two light years, a small part of the expansive supernova remnant. In images of the complete Veil Nebula, even studious readers might not be able to identify the featured filaments.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2021 January 18 - The Medulla Nebula Supernova Remnant
Explanation: What powers this unusual nebula? CTB-1 is the expanding gas shell that was left when a massive star toward the constellation of Cassiopeia exploded about 10,000 years ago. The star likely detonated when it ran out of elements, near its core, that could create stabilizing pressure with nuclear fusion. The resulting supernova remnant, nicknamed the Medulla Nebula for its brain-like shape, still glows in visible light by the heat generated by its collision with confining interstellar gas. Why the nebula also glows in X-ray light, though, remains a mystery. One hypothesis holds that an energetic pulsar was co-created that powers the nebula with a fast outwardly moving wind. Following this lead, a pulsar has recently been found in radio waves that appears to have been expelled by the supernova explosion at over 1000 kilometers per second. Although the Medulla Nebula appears as large as a full moon, it is so faint that it took 130-hours of exposure with two small telescopes in New Mexico, USA, to create the featured image.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2020 December 10 - Simeis 147: Supernova Remnant
Explanation: It's easy to get lost following the intricate looping filaments in this detailed image of supernova remnant Simeis 147. Also cataloged as Sharpless 2-240 it goes by the popular nickname, the Spaghetti Nebula. Seen toward the boundary of the constellations Taurus and Auriga, it covers nearly 3 degrees or 6 full moons on the sky. That's about 150 light-years at the stellar debris cloud's estimated distance of 3,000 light-years. This composite includes image data taken through narrow-band filters where reddish emission from ionized hydrogen atoms and doubly ionized oxygen atoms in faint blue-green hues trace the shocked, glowing gas. The supernova remnant has an estimated age of about 40,000 years, meaning light from the massive stellar explosion first reached Earth 40,000 years ago. But the expanding remnant is not the only aftermath. The cosmic catastrophe also left behind a spinning neutron star or pulsar, all that remains of the original star's core.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2020 October 23 - Supernova in NGC 2525
Explanation: Big, beautiful, barred spiral galaxy NGC 2525 lies 70 million light-years from the Milky Way. It shines in Earth's night sky within the boundaries of the southern constellation Puppis. About 60,000 light-years across, its spiral arms lined with dark dust clouds, massive blue stars, and pinkish starforming regions wind through this gorgeous Hubble Space Telescope snapshot. Spotted on the outskirts of NGC 2525 in January 2018, supernova SN 2018gv is the brightest star in the frame at the lower left. In time-lapse, a year long series of Hubble observations followed the stellar explosion, the nuclear detonation of a white dwarf star triggered by accreting material from a companion star, as it slowly faded from view. Identified as a Type Ia supernova, its brightness is considered a cosmic standard candle. Type Ia supernovae are used to measure distances to galaxies and determine the expansion rate of the Universe.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2020 February 17 - The Changing Surface of Fading Betelgeuse
Explanation: Besides fading, is Betelgeuse changing its appearance? Yes. The famous red supergiant star in the familiar constellation of Orion is so large that telescopes on Earth can actually resolve its surface -- although just barely. The two featured images taken with the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope show how the star's surface appeared during the beginning and end of last year. The earlier image shows Betelgeuse having a much more uniform brightness than the later one, while the lower half of Betelgeuse became significantly dimmer than the top. Now during the first five months of 2019 amateur observations show Betelgeuse actually got slightly brighter, while in the last five months the star dimmed dramatically. Such variability is likely just normal behavior for this famously variable supergiant, but the recent dimming has rekindled discussion on how long it may be before Betelgeuse does go supernova. Since Betelgeuse is about 700 light years away, its eventual supernova -- probably thousands of years in the future -- will likely be an amazing night-sky spectacle, but will not endanger life on Earth.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2019 December 11 - N63A: Supernova Remnant in Visible and X-ray
Explanation: What has this supernova left behind? As little as 2,000 years ago, light from a massive stellar explosion in the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) first reached planet Earth. The LMC is a close galactic neighbor of our Milky Way Galaxy and the rampaging explosion front is now seen moving out - destroying or displacing ambient gas clouds while leaving behind relatively dense knots of gas and dust. What remains is one of the largest supernova remnants in the LMC: N63A. Many of the surviving dense knots have been themselves compressed and may further contract to form new stars. Some of the resulting stars may then explode in a supernova, continuing the cycle. Featured here is a combined image of N63A in the X-ray from the Chandra Space Telescope and in visible light by Hubble. The prominent knot of gas and dust on the upper right -- informally dubbed the Firefox -- is very bright in visible light, while the larger supernova remnant shines most brightly in X-rays. N63A spans over 25 light years and lies about 150,000 light years away toward the southern constellation of Dorado.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2019 November 21 - Simeis 147: Supernova Remnant
Explanation: It's easy to get lost following the intricate looping filaments in this detailed image of supernova remnant Simeis 147. Also cataloged as Sharpless 2-240 it goes by the popular nickname, the Spaghetti Nebula. Seen toward the boundary of the constellations Taurus and Auriga, it covers nearly 3 degrees or 6 full moons on the sky. That's about 150 light-years at the stellar debris cloud's estimated distance of 3,000 light-years. This composite includes image data taken through narrow-band filters where reddish emission from ionized hydrogen atoms and doubly ionized oxygen atoms in faint blue-green hues trace the shocked, glowing gas. The supernova remnant has an estimated age of about 40,000 years, meaning light from the massive stellar explosion first reached Earth 40,000 years ago. But the expanding remnant is not the only aftermath. The cosmic catastrophe also left behind a spinning neutron star or pulsar, all that remains of the original star's core.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2019 August 13 - Supernova Cannon Expels Pulsar J0002
Explanation: What could shoot out a neutron star like a cannon ball? A supernova. About 10,000 years ago, the supernova that created the nebular remnant CTB 1 not only destroyed a massive star but blasted its newly formed neutron star core -- a pulsar -- out into the Milky Way Galaxy. The pulsar, spinning 8.7 times a second, was discovered using downloadable software Einstein@Home searching through data taken by NASA's orbiting Fermi Gamma-Ray Observatory. Traveling over 1,000 kilometers per second, the pulsar PSR J0002+6216 (J0002 for short) has already left the supernova remnant CTB 1, and is even fast enough to leave our Galaxy. Pictured, the trail of the pulsar is visible extending to the lower left of the supernova remnant. The featured image is a combination of radio images from the VLA and DRAO radio observatories, as well as data archived from NASA's orbiting IRAS infrared observatory. It is well known that supernovas can act as cannons, and even that pulsars can act as cannonballs -- what is not known is how supernovas do it.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2019 August 4 - Rumors of a Dark Universe
Explanation: Twenty-one years ago results were first presented indicating that most of the energy in our universe is not in stars or galaxies but is tied to space itself. In the language of cosmologists, a large cosmological constant -- dark energy -- was directly implied by new distant supernova observations. Suggestions of a cosmological constant were not new -- they have existed since the advent of modern relativistic cosmology. Such claims were not usually popular with astronomers, though, because dark energy was so unlike known universe components, because dark energy's abundance appeared limited by other observations, and because less-strange cosmologies without a significant amount of dark energy had previously done well in explaining the data. What was exceptional here was the seemingly direct and reliable method of the observations and the good reputations of the scientists conducting the investigations. Over the two decades, independent teams of astronomers have continued to accumulate data that appears to confirm the existence of dark energy and the unsettling result of a presently accelerating universe. In 2011, the team leaders were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for their work. The featured picture of a supernova that occurred in 1994 on the outskirts of a spiral galaxy was taken by one of these collaborations.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2019 August 1 - Elements in the Aftermath
Explanation: Massive stars spend their brief lives furiously burning nuclear fuel. Through fusion at extreme temperatures and densities surrounding the stellar core, nuclei of light elements like Hydrogen and Helium are combined to heavier elements like Carbon, Oxygen, etc. in a progression which ends with Iron. So a supernova explosion, a massive star's inevitable and spectacular demise, blasts back into space debris enriched in heavier elements to be incorporated into other stars and planets and people. This detailed false-color x-ray image from the orbiting Chandra Observatory shows such a hot, expanding stellar debris cloud about 36 light-years across. Cataloged as G292.0+1.8, this young supernova remnant is about 20,000 light-years distant toward the southern constellation Centaurus. Light from the inital supernova explosion reached Earth an estimated 1,600 years ago. Bluish colors highlight filaments of the mulitmillion degree gas which are exceptionally rich in Oxygen, Neon, and Magnesium. This enriching supernova also produced a pulsar in its aftermath, a rotating neutron star remnant of the collapsed stellar core. The stunning image was released as part of the 20th anniversary celebration of the Chandra X-ray Observatory.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2019 February 24 - The Expanding Echoes of Supernova 1987A
Explanation: Can you find supernova 1987A? It isn't hard -- it occurred at the center of the expanding bullseye pattern. Although this stellar detonation was first seen in 1987, light from SN 1987A continued to bounce off clumps of interstellar dust and be reflected to us even many years later. Light echoes recorded between 1988 and 1992 by the Anglo Australian Telescope (AAT) in Australia are shown moving out from the position of the supernova in the featured time-lapse sequence. These images were composed by subtracting an LMC image taken before the supernova light arrived from later LMC images that included the supernova echo. Other prominent light echo sequences include those taken by the EROS2 and SuperMACHO sky monitoring projects. Studies of expanding light echo rings around other supernovas have enabled more accurate determinations of the location, date, and symmetry of these tremendous stellar explosions. Yesterday marked the 32nd anniversary of SN 1987A: the last recorded supernova in or around our Milky Way Galaxy, and the last to be visible to the unaided eye.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2019 January 13 - Tycho Supernova Remnant in X-ray
Explanation: What star created this huge puffball? What's pictured is the hot expanding nebula of Tycho's supernova remnant, the result of a stellar explosion first recorded over 400 years ago by the famous astronomer Tycho Brahe. The featured image is a composite of three X-ray colors taken by the orbiting Chandra X-ray Observatory. The expanding gas cloud is extremely hot, while slightly different expansion speeds have given the cloud a puffy appearance. Although the star that created SN 1572, is likely completely gone, a star dubbed Tycho G, too dim to be discerned here, is thought to be a companion. Finding progenitor remnants of Tycho's supernova is particularly important because the supernova is of Type Ia, an important rung in the distance ladder that calibrates the scale of the visible universe. The peak brightness of Type Ia supernovas is thought to be well understood, making them quite valuable in exploring the relationship between faintness and farness in the distant universe.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2019 January 10 - Vela Supernova Remnant Mosaic
Explanation: The plane of our Milky Way Galaxy runs through this complex and beautiful skyscape. Seen toward colorful stars near the northwestern edge of the constellation Vela (the Sails), the 16 degree wide, 200 frame mosaic is centered on the glowing filaments of the Vela Supernova Remnant, the expanding debris cloud from the death explosion of a massive star. Light from the supernova explosion that created the Vela remnant reached Earth about 11,000 years ago. In addition to the shocked filaments of glowing gas, the cosmic catastrophe also left behind an incredibly dense, rotating stellar core, the Vela Pulsar. Some 800 light-years distant, the Vela remnant is likely embedded in a larger and older supernova remnant, the Gum Nebula. Objects identified in this broad mosaic include emission and reflection nebulae, star clusters, and the remarkable Pencil Nebula.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2018 December 6 - Cetus Galaxies and Supernova
Explanation: Large spiral galaxy NGC 1055 at top left joins spiral Messier 77 (bottom right) in this cosmic view toward the aquatic constellation Cetus. The narrowed, dusty appearance of edge-on spiral NGC 1055 contrasts nicely with the face-on view of M77's bright nucleus and spiral arms. Both over 100,000 light-years across, the pair are dominant members of a small galaxy group about 60 million light-years away. At that estimated distance, M77 is one of the most remote objects in Charles Messier's catalog, and is separated from fellow island universe NGC 1055 by at least 500,000 light-years. The field of view is about the size of the full Moon on the sky and includes colorful foreground Milky Way stars along with more distant background galaxies. Taken on November 28, the sharp image also includes newly discovered supernova SN2018ivc, its location indicated in the arms of M77. The light from the explosion of one of M77's massive stars was discovered by telescopes on planet Earth only a few days earlier on November 24.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2018 November 2 - Cygnus Shell Supernova Remnant W63
Explanation: The ghost of a long-dead star, the W63 supernova remnant shines like a faint cosmic smoke-ring along the plane of the Milky Way galaxy toward the northern constellation Cygnus the swan. Its wraithlike appearance is traced against the region's rich complex of interstellar clouds and dust by an eerie blue glow. Spanning over four full moons on the sky, the beautiful image is a telescopic mosaic in twelve panels that combines 100 hours of exposure time using narrow band filters. It shows characteristic light from ionized atoms of sulfur, hydrogen and oxygen in red, green, and blue hues. Likely over 5,000 light-years away, the visible part of the still expanding shell supernova remnant is around 150 light-years in diameter. So far no source has been identified as with the remains of W63's original star. Light from the star's supernova explosion would have reached Earth over 15,000 years ago.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2018 September 30 - The Lonely Neutron Star in Supernova E0102 72.3
Explanation: Why is this neutron star off-center? Recently a lone neutron star has been found within the debris left over from an old supernova explosion. The "lonely neutron star" in question is the blue dot at the center of the red nebula near the bottom left of E0102-72.3. In the featured image composite, blue represents X-ray light captured by NASA's Chandra Observatory, while red and green represent optical light captured by ESO's Very Large Telescope in Chile and NASA's Hubble Space Telescope in orbit. The displaced position of this neutron star is unexpected since the dense star is thought to be the core of the star that exploded in the supernova and created the outer nebula. It could be that the neutron star in E0102 was pushed away from the nebula's center by the supernova itself, but then it seems odd that the smaller red ring remains centered on the neutron star. Alternatively, the outer nebula could have been expelled during a different scenario -- perhaps even involving another star. Future observations of the nebulas and neutron star appear likely to resolve the situation.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2018 September 6 - Along the Western Veil
Explanation: Delicate in appearance, these filaments of shocked, glowing gas, are draped across planet Earth's sky toward the constellation of Cygnus. They form the western part of the Veil Nebula. The Veil Nebula itself is a large supernova remnant, an expanding cloud born of the death explosion of a massive star. Light from the original supernova explosion likely reached Earth over 5,000 years ago. Blasted out in the cataclysmic event, the interstellar shock wave plows through space sweeping up and exciting interstellar material. The glowing filaments are really more like long ripples in a sheet seen almost edge on, remarkably well separated into atomic hydrogen (red) and oxygen (blue-green) gas. Also known as the Cygnus Loop, the Veil Nebula now spans nearly 3 degrees or about 6 times the diameter of the full Moon. While that translates to over 70 light-years at its estimated distance of 1,500 light-years, this telescopic two panel mosaic image of the western portion spans about half that distance. Brighter parts of the western Veil are recognized as separate nebulae, including The Witch's Broom (NGC 6960) along the top of this view and Pickering's Triangle (NGC 6979) below and left.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2018 April 8 - NGC 6960: The Witch's Broom Nebula
Explanation: Ten thousand years ago, before the dawn of recorded human history, a new light would have suddenly have appeared in the night sky and faded after a few weeks. Today we know this light was from a supernova, or exploding star, and record the expanding debris cloud as the Veil Nebula, a supernova remnant. This sharp telescopic view is centered on a western segment of the Veil Nebula cataloged as NGC 6960 but less formally known as the Witch's Broom Nebula. Blasted out in the cataclysmic explosion, the interstellar shock wave plows through space sweeping up and exciting interstellar material. Imaged with narrow band filters, the glowing filaments are like long ripples in a sheet seen almost edge on, remarkably well separated into atomic hydrogen (red) and oxygen (blue-green) gas. The complete supernova remnant lies about 1400 light-years away towards the constellation Cygnus. This Witch's Broom actually spans about 35 light-years. The bright star in the frame is 52 Cygni, visible with the unaided eye from a dark location but unrelated to the ancient supernova remnant.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2018 February 28 - NGC 613 in Dust, Stars, and a Supernova
Explanation: Where did that spot come from? Amateur astronomer Victor Buso was testing out a new camera on his telescope in 2016 when he noticed a curious spot of light appear -- and remain. After reporting this unusual observation, this spot was determined to be light from a supernova just as it was becoming visible -- in an earlier stage than had ever been photographed optically before. The discovery before and after images, taken about an hour apart, are shown in the inset of a more detailed image of the same spiral galaxy, NGC 613, taken by the Hubble Space Telescope. Follow-up observations show that SN 2016gkg was likely the explosion of a supergiant star, and Buso likely captured the stage where the outgoing detonation wave from the stellar core broke through the star's surface. Since astronomers have spent years monitoring galaxies for supernovas without seeing such a "break out" event, the odds of Buso capturing this have been compared to winning a lottery.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2017 September 29 - Puppis A Supernova Remnant
Explanation: Driven by the explosion of a massive star, supernova remnant Puppis A is blasting into the surrounding interstellar medium about 7,000 light-years away. At that distance, this colorful telescopic field based on broadband and narrowband optical image data is about 60 light-years across. As the supernova remnant (upper right) expands into its clumpy, non-uniform surroundings, shocked filaments of oxygen atoms glow in green-blue hues. Hydrogen and nitrogen are in red. Light from the initial supernova itself, triggered by the collapse of the massive star's core, would have reached Earth about 3,700 years ago. The Puppis A remnant is actually seen through outlying emission from the closer but more ancient Vela supernova remnant, near the crowded plane of our Milky Way galaxy. Still glowing across the electromagnetic spectrum Puppis A remains one of the brightest sources in the X-ray sky.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2017 May 25 - Star Cluster, Spiral Galaxy, Supernova
Explanation: A cosmic snapshot from May 19, this colorful telescopic field of view spans about 1 degree or 2 full moons on the sky. Spiky in appearance, foreground Milky Way stars are scattered toward the royal constellation Cepheus while stars of open cluster NGC 6939 gather about 5 thousand light-years in the distance near the top of the frame. Face-on spiral galaxy NGC 6946 is toward the lower left nearly 22 million light-years away. The helpful red lines identify recently discovered supernova SN 2017eaw, the death explosion of a massive star nestled in the galaxy's bluish spiral arms. In fact in the last 100 years, 10 supernovae have been discovered in NGC 6946. By comparison, the average rate of supernovae in our Milky Way is about 1 every 100 years or so. Of course, NGC 6946 is also known as The Fireworks Galaxy.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2017 May 18 - Simeis 147: Supernova Remnant
Explanation: It's easy to get lost following intricate filaments in this detailed image of faint supernova remnant Simeis 147. Also cataloged as Sharpless 2-240 it goes by the popular nickname, the Spaghetti Nebula. Seen toward the boundary of the constellations Taurus and Auriga, it covers nearly 3 degrees or 6 full moons on the sky. That's about 150 light-years at the stellar debris cloud's estimated distance of 3,000 light-years. This composite includes image data taken through narrow-band filters, enhancing the reddish emission from ionized hydrogen atoms to trace the shocked, glowing gas. The supernova remnant has an estimated age of about 40,000 years, meaning light from the massive stellar explosion first reached Earth 40,000 years ago. But the expanding remnant is not the only aftermath. The cosmic catastrophe also left behind a spinning neutron star or pulsar, all that remains of the original star's core.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2017 May 1 - Cooling Neutron Star
Explanation: The bright source near the center is a neutron star, the incredibly dense, collapsed remains of a massive stellar core. Surrounding it is supernova remnant Cassiopeia A (Cas A), a comfortable 11,000 light-years away. Light from the Cas A supernova, the death explosion of a massive star, first reached Earth about 350 years ago. The expanding debris cloud spans about 15 light-years in this composite X-ray/optical image. Still hot enough to emit X-rays, Cas A's neutron star is cooling. In fact, years of observations with the orbiting Chandra X-ray Observatory find that the neutron star is cooling rapidly -- so rapidly that researchers suspect a large part of the neutron star's core is forming a frictionless neutron superfluid. The Chandra results represent the first observational evidence for this bizarre state of neutron matter.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2017 March 5 - The Mysterious Rings of Supernova 1987A
Explanation: What's causing those odd rings in supernova 1987A? Thirty years ago, in 1987, the brightest supernova in recent history was seen in the Large Magellanic Cloud. At the center of the featured picture is an object central to the remains of the violent stellar explosion. Surrounding the center are curious outer rings appearing as a flattened figure 8. Although large telescopes including the Hubble Space Telescope monitor the curious rings every few years, their origin remains a mystery. Pictured here is a Hubble image of the SN1987A remnant taken in 2011. Speculation into the cause of the rings includes beamed jets emanating from an otherwise hidden neutron star left over from the supernova, and the interaction of the wind from the progenitor star with gas released before the explosion.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2016 June 6 - The Supernova and Cepheids of Spiral Galaxy UGC 9391
Explanation: What can this galaxy tell us about the expansion rate of the universe? Perhaps a lot because UGC 9391, featured, not only contains Cepheid variable stars (red circles) but also a recent Type Ia supernova (blue X). Both types of objects have standard brightnesses, with Cepheids typically being seen relatively nearby, while supernovas are seen much farther away. Therefore, this spiral is important because it allows a calibration between the near and distant parts of our universe. Unexpectedly, a recent analysis of new Hubble data from UGC 9391 and several similar galaxies has bolstered previous indications that Cepheids and supernovas are expanding with the universe slightly faster than expected from expansion measurements of the early universe. Given the multiple successes of early universe concordance cosmology, astrophysicists are now vigorously speculating about possible reasons for this discrepancy. Candidate explanations range from the sensational, such as the inclusion of unusual cosmological components types such as phantom energy and dark radiation, to the mundane, including statistical flukes and underestimated sources of systematic errors. Numerous future observations are being planned to help resolve the conundrum.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2016 June 1 - Tycho's Supernova Remnant Expands
Explanation: What star created this huge expanding puffball? Featured here is the first expansion movie ever created for Tycho's supernova remnant, the result of a stellar explosion first recorded over 400 years ago by the famous astronomer Tycho Brahe. The 2-second video is a time-lapse composite of X-ray images taken by the orbiting Chandra X-ray Observatory between the years 2000 and 2015, added to a stock optical frame. The expanding gas cloud is extremely hot, while slightly different expansion speeds have given the cloud a puffy appearance. Although the star that created SN 1572, is likely completely gone, a star dubbed Tycho G, too dim to be discerned here, is thought to be a companion. Finding progenitor remnants of Tycho's supernova is particularly important because the supernova is of Type Ia, an important rung in the distance ladder that calibrates the scale of the visible universe. The peak brightness of Type Ia supernovas is thought to be well understood, making them quite valuable in exploring the relationship between faintness and farness in the distant universe.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2016 April 25 - Simeis 147: Supernova Remnant
Explanation: It's easy to get lost following the intricate strands of the Spaghetti Nebula. A supernova remnant cataloged as Simeis 147 and Sh2-240, the glowing gas filaments cover nearly 3 degrees -- 6 full moons -- on the sky. That's about 150 light-years at the stellar debris cloud's estimated distance of 3,000 light-years. This sharp composite includes image data taken through a narrow-band filter to highlight emission from hydrogen atoms tracing the shocked, glowing gas. The supernova remnant has an estimated age of about 40,000 years, meaning light from the massive stellar explosion first reached Earth about 40,000 years ago. But the expanding remnant is not the only aftermath. The cosmic catastrophe also left behind a spinning neutron star or pulsar, all that remains of the original star's core.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2016 February 23 - A Supernova through Galaxy Dust
Explanation: Telescopes around the world are tracking a bright supernova that occurred in a nearby dusty galaxy. The powerful stellar explosion was first noted earlier this month. The nearby galaxy is the photogenic Centaurus A, visible with binoculars and known for impressive filaments of light-absorbing dust that cross its center. Cen A is featured here in a high-resolution archival Hubble Space Telescope image, with an inset image featuring the supernova taken from the ground only two days after discovery. Designated SN2016adj, the supernova is highlighted with crosshairs in the inset, appearing just to the left of a bright foreground star in our Milky Way Galaxy. This supernova is currently thought to be of Type IIb, a stellar-core-collapse supernova, and is of high interest because it occurred so nearby and because it is being seen through a known dust filament. Current and future observations of this supernova may give us new clues about the fates of massive stars and how some elements found on our Earth were formed.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2016 February 9 - The Rise and Fall of Supernova 2015F
Explanation: Sit back and watch a star explode. The actual supernova occurred back when dinosaurs roamed the Earth, but images of the spectacular event began arriving last year. Supernova 2015F was discovered in nearby spiral galaxy NGC 2442 by Berto Monard in 2015 March and was unusually bright -- enough to be seen with only a small telescope. The pattern of brightness variation indicated a Type Ia supernova -- a type of stellar explosion that results when an Earth-size white dwarf gains so much mass that its core crosses the threshold of nuclear fusion, possibly caused by a lower mass white-dwarf companion spiraling into it. Finding and tracking Type Ia supernovae are particularly important because their intrinsic brightness can be calibrated, making their apparent brightness a good measure of their distance -- and hence useful toward calibrating the distance scale of the entire universe. The featured video tracked the stellar disruption from before explosion images arrived, as it brightened, and for several months as the fission-powered supernova glow faded. The remnants of SN2015F are now too dim to see without a large telescope. Just yesterday, however, the night sky lit up once again, this time with an even brighter supernova in an even closer galaxy: Centaurus A.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2015 December 21 - SN Refsdal: The First Predicted Supernova Image
Explanation: It's back. Never before has an observed supernova been predicted. The unique astronomical event occurred in the field of galaxy cluster MACS J1149.5+2223. Most bright spots in the featured image are galaxies in this cluster. The actual supernova, dubbed Supernova Refsdal, occurred just once far across the universe and well behind this massive galaxy cluster. Gravity caused the cluster to act as a massive gravitational lens, splitting the image of Supernova Refsdal into multiple bright images. One of these images arrived at Earth about ten years ago, likely in the upper red circle, and was missed. Four more bright images peaked in April in the lowest red circle, spread around a massive galaxy in the cluster as the first Einstein Cross supernova. But there was more. Analyses revealed that a sixth bright supernova image was likely still on its way to Earth and likely to arrive within the next year. Earlier this month -- right on schedule -- this sixth bright image was recovered, in the middle red circle, as predicted. Studying image sequences like this help humanity to understand how matter is distributed in galaxies and clusters, how fast the universe expands, and how massive stars explode.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2015 August 28 - Puppis A Supernova Remnant
Explanation: Driven by the explosion of a massive star, supernova remnant Puppis A is blasting into the surrounding interstellar medium about 7,000 light-years away. At that distance, this colorful telescopic field based on broadband and narrowband optical image data is about 60 light-years across. As the supernova remnant expands into its clumpy, non-uniform surroundings, shocked filaments of oxygen atoms glow in green-blue hues. Hydrogen and nitrogen are in red. Light from the initial supernova itself, triggered by the collapse of the massive star's core, would have reached Earth about 3,700 years ago. The Puppis A remnant is actually seen through outlying emission from the closer but more ancient Vela supernova remnant, near the crowded plane of our Milky Way galaxy. Still glowing across the electromagnetic spectrum Puppis A remains one of the brightest sources in the X-ray sky.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2015 May 31 - Supernova 1994D and the Unexpected Universe
Explanation: Long ago, far away, a star exploded. Supernova 1994D, visible as the bright spot on the lower left, occurred in the outskirts of disk galaxy NGC 4526. Supernova 1994D was not of interest for how different it was, but rather for how similar it was to other supernovae. In fact, the light emitted during the weeks after its explosion caused it to be given the familiar designation of a Type Ia supernova. If all Type 1a supernovae have the same intrinsic brightness, then the dimmer a supernova appears, the farther away it must be. By calibrating a precise brightness-distance relation, astronomers are able to estimate not only the expansion rate of the universe (parameterized by the Hubble Constant), but also the geometry of the universe we live in (parameterized by Omega and Lambda). The large number and great distances to supernovae measured over the past few years, when combined with other observations, are interpreted as indicating that we live in a previously unexpected universe.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2015 March 9 - Galaxy and Cluster Create Four Images of Distant Supernova
Explanation: What are the unusual spots surrounding that galaxy? They are all images of the same supernova. For the first time, a single supernova explosion has been seen split into multiple images by the gravitational lens deflections of intervening masses. In this case the masses are a large galaxy and its home galaxy cluster. The featured image was captured last November by the Earth-orbiting Hubble Space Telescope. The yellow-hued quadruply-imaged Supernova Refsdal occurred in the early universe far behind the cluster. Measuring the locations and time-delays between the supernova images should allow astrophysicists to recover the amount of dark matter in the galaxy and cluster. With patience and luck, a fifth image of the supernova will also be recovered nearby in the next few years.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2015 January 1 - Vela Supernova Remnant
Explanation: The plane of our Milky Way Galaxy runs through this complex and beautiful skyscape. At the northwestern edge of the constellation Vela (the Sails) the telescopic frame is over 10 degrees wide, centered on the brightest glowing filaments of the Vela Supernova Remnant, an expanding debris cloud from the death explosion of a massive star. Light from the supernova explosion that created the Vela remnant reached Earth about 11,000 years ago. In addition to the shocked filaments of glowing gas, the cosmic catastrophe also left behind an incredibly dense, rotating stellar core, the Vela Pulsar. Some 800 light-years distant, the Vela remnant is likely embedded in a larger and older supernova remnant, the Gum Nebula

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2014 September 12 - Supernova Remnant Puppis A
Explanation: Driven by the explosion of a massive star, supernova remnant Puppis A is blasting into the surrounding interstellar medium about 7,000 light-years away. At that distance, this remarkable false-color exploration of its complex expansion is about 180 light-years wide. It is based on the most complete X-ray data set so far from the Chandra and XMM/Newton observations, and infrared data from the Spitzer Space Telescope. In blue hues, the filamentary X-ray glow is from gas heated by the supernova's shock wave, while the infrared emission shown in red and green is from warm dust. The bright pastel tones trace the regions where shocked gas and warmed dust mingle. Light from the initial supernova itself, triggered by the collapse of the massive star's core, would have reached Earth about 3,700 years ago, though the Puppis A supernova remnant remains a strong source in the X-ray sky.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2014 August 16 - No X-rays from SN 2014J
Explanation: Last January, telescopes in observatories around planet Earth were eagerly used to watch the rise of SN 2014J, a bright supernova in nearby galaxy M82. Still, the most important observations may have been from orbit where the Chandra X-ray Observatory saw nothing. Identified as a Type Ia supernova, the explosion of SN2014J was thought to be triggered by the buildup of mass on a white dwarf star steadily accreting material from a companion star. That model predicts X-rays would be generated when the supernova blastwave struck the material left surrounding the white dwarf. But no X-rays were seen from the supernova. The mostly blank close-ups centered on the supernova's position are shown in the before and after inset panels of Chandra's false color X-ray image of the M82 galaxy. The stunning lack of X-rays from SN 2014J will require astronomers to explore other models to explain what triggers these cosmic explosions.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2014 July 12 - SN 1006 Supernova Remnant
Explanation: A new star, likely the brightest supernova in recorded human history, lit up planet Earth's sky in the year 1006 AD. The expanding debris cloud from the stellar explosion, found in the southerly constellation of Lupus, still puts on a cosmic light show across the electromagnetic spectrum. In fact, this composite view includes X-ray data in blue from the Chandra Observatory, optical data in yellowish hues, and radio image data in red. Now known as the SN 1006 supernova remnant, the debris cloud appears to be about 60 light-years across and is understood to represent the remains of a white dwarf star. Part of a binary star system, the compact white dwarf gradually captured material from its companion star. The buildup in mass finally triggered a thermonuclear explosion that destroyed the dwarf star. Because the distance to the supernova remnant is about 7,000 light-years, that explosion actually happened 7,000 years before the light reached Earth in 1006. Shockwaves in the remnant accelerate particles to extreme energies and are thought to be a source of the mysterious cosmic rays.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2014 May 5 - Galaxy Cluster Magnifies Distant Supernova
Explanation: How do you calibrate a huge gravitational lens? In this case the lens is the galaxy cluster Abell 383, a massive conglomeration of galaxies, hot gas, and dark matter that lies about 2.5 billion light years away (redshift z=0.187). What needs calibrating is the mass of the cluster, in particular the amount and distribution of dark matter. A new calibration technique has been tested recently that consists of waiting for supernovas of a very specific type to occur behind a galaxy cluster, and then figuring out how much the cluster must have magnified these supernovas through gravitational lensing. This technique complements other measures including computing the dark matter needed to contain internal galaxy motions, to confine cluster hot gas, and to create the gravitational lens image distortions. Pictured above from the Hubble Space Telescope, galaxy cluster A383 shows its gravitational lens capabilities on the right by highly distorting background galaxies behind the cluster center. On the left is a distant galaxy shown both before and after a recent revealing supernova. To date, calibration-quality supernovas of Type Ia have been found behind two other galaxy clusters by the Cluster Lensing And Supernova survey with Hubble (CLASH) project.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2014 February 21 - The Long Jet of the Lighthouse Nebula
Explanation: The Lighthouse nebula was formed by the wind of a pulsar, a rapidly rotating, magnetized neutron star, as it speeds through the interstellar medium at over 1,000 kilometers per second. Some 23,000 light-years distant toward the southern constellation Carina, pulsar and wind nebula (cataloged as IGR J1104-6103) are indicated at the lower right in this remarkable image from the Chandra X-ray Observatory. Energetic particles generated by the pulsar are swept back into the wind's comet-like tail trailing up and to the left, along the direction of the pulsar's motion away from its parent supernova remnant. Both runaway pulsar and expanding remnant debris field are the aftermath of the core-collapse-explosion of a massive star, with the pulsar kicked out by the supernova explosion. Adding to the scene of exotic cosmic extremes is a long, spiraling jet extending for almost 37 light-years, but nearly at a right angle to the pulsar's motion. The high-energy particle jet is the longest known for any object in our Milky Way galaxy.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2014 January 24 - Bright Supernova in M82
Explanation: Astronomers really don't find supernovae by looking for the arrows. But in this image taken January 23rd, an arrow does point to an exciting, new supernova, now cataloged as SN 2014J, in nearby bright galaxy M82. Located near the Big Dipper in planet Earth's sky, M82 is also known as the Cigar Galaxy, a popular target for telescopes in the northern hemisphere. In fact, SN 2014J was first spotted as an unfamiliar source in the otherwise familiar galaxy by teaching fellow Steve Fossey and astronomy workshop students Ben Cooke, Tom Wright, Matthew Wilde and Guy Pollack at the University College London Observatory on the evening of January 21. M82 is a mere 12 million light-years away (so the supernova explosion did happen 12 million years ago, that light just now reaching Earth), making supernova SN 2014J one of the closest to be seen in recent decades. Spectra indicate it is a Type Ia supernova caused by the explosion of a white dwarf accreting matter from a companion star. By some estimates one week away from its maximum brightness, SN 2014J is already the brightest part of M82 and visible in small telescopes in the evening sky.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2013 October 1 - Filaments of the Vela Supernova Remnant
Explanation: The explosion is over but the consequences continue. About eleven thousand years ago a star in the constellation of Vela could be seen to explode, creating a strange point of light briefly visible to humans living near the beginning of recorded history. The outer layers of the star crashed into the interstellar medium, driving a shock wave that is still visible today. A roughly spherical, expanding shock wave is visible in X-rays. The above image captures some of that filamentary and gigantic shock in visible light. As gas flies away from the detonated star, it decays and reacts with the interstellar medium, producing light in many different colors and energy bands. Remaining at the center of the Vela Supernova Remnant is a pulsar, a star as dense as nuclear matter that rotates completely around more than ten times in a single second.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2013 August 8 - NGC 3370: A Sharper View
Explanation: Similar in size and grand design to our own Milky Way, spiral galaxy NGC 3370 lies about 100 million light-years away toward the constellation Leo. Recorded here in exquisite detail by the Hubble Space Telescope's Advanced Camera for Surveys, the big, beautiful face-on spiral does steal the show, but the sharp image also reveals an impressive array of background galaxies in the field, strewn across the more distant Universe. Looking within NGC 3370, the image data has proved sharp enough to study individual pulsating stars known as Cepheids that can be used to accurately determine this galaxy's distance. NGC 3370 was chosen for this study because in 1994 the spiral galaxy was also home to a well studied stellar explosion -- a type Ia supernova. Combining the known distance to this standard candle supernova, based on the Cepheid measurements, with observations of supernovae at even greater distances, can reveal the size and expansion rate of the Universe itself.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2013 May 29 - NGC 6960: The Witch's Broom Nebula
Explanation: Ten thousand years ago, before the dawn of recorded human history, a new light would have suddenly have appeared in the night sky and faded after a few weeks. Today we know this light was from a supernova, or exploding star, and record the expanding debris cloud as the Veil Nebula, a supernova remnant. This sharp telescopic view is centered on a western segment of the Veil Nebula cataloged as NGC 6960 but less formally known as the Witch's Broom Nebula. Blasted out in the cataclysmic explosion, the interstellar shock wave plows through space sweeping up and exciting interstellar material. Imaged with narrow band filters, the glowing filaments are like long ripples in a sheet seen almost edge on, remarkably well separated into atomic hydrogen (red) and oxygen (blue-green) gas. The complete supernova remnant lies about 1400 light-years away towards the constellation Cygnus. This Witch's Broom actually spans about 35 light-years. The bright star in the frame is 52 Cygni, visible with the unaided eye from a dark location but unrelated to the ancient supernova remnant.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2013 May 15 - Kepler's Supernova Remnant in X-Rays
Explanation: What caused this mess? Some type of star exploded to create the unusually shaped nebula known as Kepler's supernova remnant, but which type? Light from the stellar explosion that created this energized cosmic cloud was first seen on planet Earth in October 1604, a mere four hundred years ago. The supernova produced a bright new star in early 17th century skies within the constellation Ophiuchus. It was studied by astronomer Johannes Kepler and his contemporaries, without the benefit of a telescope, as they searched for an explanation of the heavenly apparition. Armed with a modern understanding of stellar evolution, early 21st century astronomers continue to explore the expanding debris cloud, but can now use orbiting space telescopes to survey Kepler's supernova remnant (SNR) across the spectrum. Recent X-ray data and images of Kepler's supernova remnant taken by the orbiting Chandra X-ray Observatory has shown relative elemental abundances typical of a Type Ia supernova, and further indicated that the progenitor was a white dwarf star that exploded when it accreted too much material from a companion Red Giant star and went over Chandrasekhar's limit. About 13,000 light years away, Kepler's supernova represents the most recent stellar explosion seen to occur within our Milky Way galaxy.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2013 April 23 - X rays from Supernova Remnant SN 1006
Explanation: What looks like a puff-ball is surely the remains of the brightest supernova in recorded human history. In 1006 AD, it was recorded as lighting up the nighttime skies above areas now known as China, Egypt, Iraq, Italy, Japan, and Switzerland. The expanding debris cloud from the stellar explosion, found in the southerly constellation the Wolf (Lupus), still puts on a cosmic light show across the electromagnetic spectrum. In fact, the above image results from three colors of X-rays taken by the orbiting Chandra X-ray Observatory. Now known as the SN 1006 supernova remnant, the debris cloud appears to be about 60 light-years across and is understood to represent the remains of a white dwarf star. Part of a binary star system, the compact white dwarf gradually captured material from its companion star. The buildup in mass finally triggered a thermonuclear explosion that destroyed the dwarf star. Because the distance to the supernova remnant is about 7,000 light-years, that explosion actually happened 7,000 years before the light reached Earth in 1006. Shockwaves in the remnant accelerate particles to extreme energies and are thought to be a source of the mysterious cosmic rays.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2013 January 17 - Cas A: Optical and X-ray
Explanation: The aftermath of a cosmic cataclysm, supernova remnant Cassiopeia A (Cas A) is a comfortable 11,000 light-years away. Light from the Cas A supernova, the death explosion of a massive star, first reached Earth just 330 years ago. Still expanding, the explosion's debris cloud spans about 15 light-years near the center of this composite image. The scene combines color data of the starry field and fainter filaments of material at optical energies with image data from the orbiting NuSTAR X-ray telescope. Mapped to false colors, the X-ray data in blue hues trace the fragmented outer boundary of the expanding shock wave, glowing at energies up to 10,000 times the energy of the optical photons.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2013 January 9 - The Elusive Jellyfish Nebula
Explanation: Normally faint and elusive, the Jellyfish Nebula is caught in this alluring telescopic view. Drifting near bright star Eta Geminorum, at the foot of a celestial twin, the Jellyfish Nebula is seen dangling tentacles from the bright arcing ridge of emission left of center. In fact, the cosmic jellyfish is part of bubble-shaped supernova remnant IC 443, the expanding debris cloud from a massive star that exploded. Light from the explosion first reached planet Earth over 30,000 years ago. Like its cousin in astrophysical waters the Crab Nebula supernova remnant, IC 443 is known to harbor a neutron star, the remnant of the collapsed stellar core. The Jellyfish Nebula is about 5,000 light-years away. At that distance, this image would be about 100 light-years across.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2012 November 26 - Wisps of the Veil Nebula
Explanation: Wisps like this are all that remain visible of a Milky Way star. About 9,000 years ago that star exploded in a supernova leaving the Veil Nebula, also known as the Cygnus Loop. At the time, the expanding cloud was likely as bright as a crescent Moon, remaining visible for weeks to people living at the dawn of recorded history. Today, the resulting supernova remnant has faded and is now visible only through a small telescope directed toward the constellation of the Swan (Cygnus). The remaining Veil Nebula is physically huge, however, and even though it lies about 1,400 light-years distant, it covers over five times the size of the full Moon. In images like this of the complete Veil Nebula, studious readers should be able to identify several of the individual filaments. A bright wisp at the right is known as the Witch's Broom Nebula.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2012 November 24 - NGC 1365: Majestic Spiral with Supernova
Explanation: Barred spiral galaxy NGC 1365 is truly a majestic island universe some 200,000 light-years across. Located a mere 60 million light-years away toward the chemical constellation Fornax, NGC 1365 is a dominant member of the well-studied Fornax galaxy cluster. This sharp color image shows intense star forming regions at the ends of the bar and along the spiral arms, and details of dust lanes cutting across the galaxy's bright core. At the core lies a supermassive black hole. Astronomers think NGC 1365's prominent bar plays a crucial role in the galaxy's evolution, drawing gas and dust into a star-forming maelstrom and ultimately feeding material into the central black hole. Discovered on October 27, the position of a bright supernova is indicated in NGC 1365. Cataloged as SN2012fr, the type Ia supernova is the explosion of a white dwarf star.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2012 October 9 - Simeis 147: Supernova Remnant
Explanation: It's easy to get lost following the intricate filaments in this detailed mosaic image of faint supernova remnant Simeis 147 (S147). Also cataloged as Sh2-240, it covers nearly 3 degrees or 6 full moons on the sky. That's about 150 light-years at the stellar debris cloud's estimated distance of 3,000 light-years. Anchoring the frame at the right, bright star Elnath (Beta Tauri) is seen towards the boundary of the constellations Taurus and Auriga, almost exactly opposite the galactic center in planet Earth's sky. This sharp composite includes image data taken through a narrow-band filter to highlight emission from hydrogen atoms tracing the shocked, glowing gas. The supernova remnant has an estimated age of about 40,000 years, meaning light from the massive stellar explosion first reached Earth 40,000 years ago. But the expanding remnant is not the only aftermath. The cosmic catastrophe also left behind a spinning neutron star or pulsar, all that remains of the original star's core.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2012 March 22 - M95 with Supernova
Explanation: Barred spiral galaxy M95 is about 75,000 light-years across, comparable in size to our own Milky Way and one of the larger galaxies of the Leo I galaxy group. In fact, it is part of a not quite so famous trio of Leo galaxies with neighbors M96 and M105, about 38 million light-years distant. In this sharp and colorful cosmic portrait, a bright, compact ring of star formation surrounds the galaxy's core. Surrounding the prominent yellowish bar are tightly wound spiral arms traced by dust lanes, young blue star clusters, and telltale pinkish star forming regions. As a bonus, follow along the spiral arm unwinding down and to the right and you'll soon get to M95's latest supernova SN 2012aw, discovered on March 16 and now identified as the explosion of a massive star. A good target for small telescopes, the supernova stands out in this video feature (vimeo) comparing the recent image with a deep image of M95 without supernova taken in 2009.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2012 February 27 - Shocked by Supernova 1987A
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.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2012 February 26 - The Mysterious Rings of Supernova 1987A
Explanation: What's causing those odd rings in supernova 1987A? Twenty five years ago, in 1987, the brightest supernova in recent history was seen in the Large Magellanic Cloud. At the center of the above picture is an object central to the remains of the violent stellar explosion. Surrounding the center are curious outer rings appearing as a flattened figure 8. Although large telescopes including the Hubble Space Telescope monitor the curious rings every few years, their origin remains a mystery. Pictured above is a Hubble image of the SN1987A remnant taken last year. Speculation into the cause of the rings includes beamed jets emanating from an otherwise hidden neutron star left over from the supernova, and the interaction of the wind from the progenitor star with gas released before the explosion.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2012 January 27 - NGC 3239 and SN 2012A
Explanation: About 40,000 light-years across, pretty, irregular galaxy NGC 3239 lies near the center of this lovely field of galaxies in the galaxy rich constellation Leo. At a distance of only 25 million light-years it dominates the frame, sporting a peculiar arrangement of structures, young blue star clusters and star forming regions, suggesting that NGC 3239 (aka Arp 263) is the result of a galaxy merger. Appearing nearly on top of the pretty galaxy is a bright, spiky, foreground star, a nearby member of our own Milky Way galaxy almost directly along our line-of-sight to NGC 3239. Still, NGC 3239 is notable for hosting this year's first confirmed supernova, designated SN 2012A. It was discovered early this month by supernova hunters Bob Moore, Jack Newton, and Tim Puckett. Indicated in a cropped version of the wider image, SN 2012A is just below and right of the bright foreground star. Of course, based on the light-travel time to NGC 3239, the supernova explosion itself occurred 25 million years ago, triggered by the core collapse of a massive star.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2012 January 12 - The Case of the Missing Supernova Companion
Explanation: Where's the other star? At the center of this supernova remnant should be the companion star to the star that blew up. Identifying this star is important for understanding just how Type Ia supernova detonate, which in turn could lead to a better understanding of why the brightness of such explosions are so predictable, which in turn is key to calibrating the entire nature of our universe. The trouble is that even a careful inspection of the center of SNR 0509-67.5 has not found any star at all. This indicates that the companion is intrinsically very faint -- much more faint that many types of bright giant stars that had been previous candidates. In fact, the implication is that the companion star might have to be a faint white dwarf, similar to -- but less massive than -- the star that detonated. SNR 0509-67.5 is shown above in both visible light, shining in red as imaged by the Hubble Space Telescope, and X-ray light, shown in false-color green as imaged by the Chandra X-ray Observatory. Putting your cursor over the picture will highlight the central required location for the missing companion star.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2011 November 10 - RCW 86: Historical Supernova Remnant
Explanation: In 185 AD, Chinese astronomers recorded the appearance of a new star in the Nanmen asterism - a part of the sky identified with Alpha and Beta Centauri on modern star charts. The new star was visible for months and is thought to be the earliest recorded supernova. This multiwavelength composite image from orbiting telescopes of the 21st century, XMM-Newton and Chandra in X-rays, and Spitzer and WISE in infrared, shows RCW 86, understood to be the remnant of that stellar explosion. The false-color view traces interstellar gas heated by the expanding supernova shock wave at X-ray energies (blue and green) and interstellar dust radiating at cooler temperatures in infrared light (yellow and red). An abundance of the element iron and lack of a neutron star or pulsar in the remnant suggest that the original supernova was Type Ia. Type Ia supernovae are thermonuclear explosions that destroy a white dwarf star as it accretes material from a companion in a binary star system. Shock velocities measured in the X-ray emitting shell and infrared dust temperatures indicate that the remnant is expanding extremely rapidly into a remarkable low density bubble created before the explosion by the white dwarf system. Near the plane of our Milky Way Galaxy, RCW 86 is about 8,200 light-years away and has an estimated radius of 50 light-years.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2011 October 9 - Nobels for a Strange Universe
Explanation: Thirteen years ago results were first presented indicating that most of the energy in our universe is not in stars or galaxies but is tied to space itself. In the language of cosmologists, a large cosmological constant is directly implied by new distant supernova observations. Suggestions of a cosmological constant (lambda) were not new -- they have existed since the advent of modern relativistic cosmology. Such claims were not usually popular with astronomers, though, because lambda is so unlike known universe components, because lambda's value appeared limited by other observations, and because less-strange cosmologies without lambda had previously done well in explaining the data. What is noteworthy here is the seemingly direct and reliable method of the observations and the good reputations of the scientists conducting the investigations. Over the past thirteen years, independent teams of astronomers have continued to accumulate data that appears to confirm the existence of dark energy and the unsettling result of a presently accelerating universe. This year, the team leaders were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for their work. The above picture of a supernova that occurred in 1994 on the outskirts of a spiral galaxy was taken by one of these collaborations.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2011 August 26 - A Young Supernova in the Nearby Pinwheel Galaxy
Explanation: A nearby star has exploded and telescopes all over the world are turning to monitor it. The supernova, dubbed PTF 11kly, was discovered by computer only two days ago as part of the Palomar Transient Factory (PTF) sky survey utilizing the wide angle 1.2-meter Samuel Oschin Telescope in California. Its rapid recovery makes it one of the supernovas caught most soon after ignition. PTF 11kly occurred in the photogenic Pinwheel galaxy (M101), which, being only about 21 million light years away, makes it one of the closest supernovas seen in decades. Rapid follow up observations have already given a clear indication that PTF 11kly is a Type Ia supernova, a type of white dwarf detonation that usually progresses in such a standard manner than it has helped to calibrate the expansion history of the entire universe. Studying such a close and young Type Ia event, however, may yield new and unique clues. If early indications are correct, PTF 11kly should brighten to about visual magnitude 10 in the coming weeks, making it possible to monitor with even moderately sized telescopes.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2011 July 23 - NGC 2403 in Camelopardalis
Explanation: Magnificent island universe NGC 2403 stands within the boundaries of the long-necked constellation Camelopardalis. Some 10 million light-years distant and about 50,000 light-years across, the spiral galaxy also seems to have more than its fair share of giant star forming HII regions, marked by the telltale reddish glow of atomic hydrogen gas. In fact, NGC 2403 closely resembles another galaxy with an abundance of star forming regions that lies within our own local galaxy group, M33 the Triangulum Galaxy. Of course, supernova explosions follow close on the heels of the formation of massive, short-lived stars and in 2004 one of the brightest supernovae discovered in recent times was found in NGC 2403. Easy to confuse with a foreground star in our own Milky Way Galaxy, the powerful supernova is seen here as the spiky, bright "star" at the left edge of the field. This stunning cosmic portrait is a composite of space and ground-based image data from the Hubble Legacy Archive and the 8.2 meter Subaru Telescope at the summit of Mauna Kea, Hawaii.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2011 June 11 - Supernovae in the Whirlpool
Explanation: Where do spiral galaxies keep their supernovae? Near their massive star forming regions, of course, and those regions tend to lie along sweeping blue spiral arms. Because massive stars are very short-lived, they don't have a chance to wander far from their birth place. Remarkably, in the last 6 years two Type II supernovae, representing the death explosions of massive stars, have been detected in nearby spiral M51. Along with a third supernova seen in 1994, that amounts to a supernova bonanza for a single galaxy. As demonstrated in these comparison images, SN2005cs, the supernova discovered in 2005, and more recently SN2011dh, the exceptionally bright supernova first recorded just last month, both lie along M51's grand spiral arms. Perhaps the original spiral nebula, M51 is also known as the Whirlpool Galaxy.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2011 June 5 - Another Nearby Supernova in the Whirlpool Galaxy
Explanation: One of the brightest supernovas in recent years has just been recorded in the nearby Whirlpool galaxy (M51). Surprisingly, a seemingly similar supernova was recorded in M51 during 2005, following yet another one that occurred in 1994. Three supernovas in 17 years is a lot for single galaxy, and reasons for the supernova surge in M51 are being debated. Pictured above are two images of M51 taken with a small telescope: one taken on May 30 that does not show the supernova, and one taken on June 2 which does. The June 2 image is one of the first images reported to contain the supernova. The images are blinked to show the location of the exploded star. Although most supernovas follow classic brightness patterns, the precise brightening and dimming pattern of this or any supernova is hard to predict in advance and can tell astronomers much about what is happening. Currently, the M51 supernova, designated SN 2011dh, is still bright enough to follow with a small telescope. Therefore, sky enthusiasts are encouraged to image the Whirlpool galaxy as often as possible to fill in time gaps left by intermittent observations made by the world's most powerful telescopes. Views of the developing supernova are being uploaded here.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2011 May 26 - Supernova Sonata
Explanation: To create a sonata from supernovae, first you have to find the supernovae. To do that composers Alex Parker and Melissa Graham relied on the Canada France Hawaii Telescope (CFHT) Legacy Survey data of four deep fields on the sky monitored from April 2003 through August 2006, adopting 241 Type Ia supernovae. Enchanting to cosmologists, Type Ia supernovae are thermonuclear explosions that destroy white dwarf stars. Then, they gave each supernova a note to play, the volume of the note determined by the distance to the supernova. Fainter, more distant supernovae play quieter notes. Each note's pitch was based on a stretch factor measured by how fast the supernova brightens and fades over time relative to a standard time history. Higher stretch factors play higher notes in pitches drawn from the illustrated Phrygian dominant scale. Of course, each supernova note is played on an instrument. Supernovae in massive galaxies were assigned to a stand-up bass, while supernovae in less massive galaxies played their note on a grand piano. Click on the image or follow these links (Vimeo, YouTube) to watch a time compressed animation of the CFHT Legacy Survey data while listening to the Supernova Sonata.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2011 April 30 - Tycho's Supernova Remnant
Explanation:

Tycho! Tycho! burning bright
In the darkness of the night,
What exploding white dwarf star
Did frame thy remnant from afar,

In the distant deep dark skies
Under gaze of human eyes?
Seen by mortals and their ma
Named for one called Tycho Brahe.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2011 February 12 - Simeis 147: Supernova Remnant
Explanation: It's easy to get lost following the intricate filaments in this detailed mosaic image of faint supernova remnant Simeis 147. Also cataloged as Sh2-240 and seen towards the constellation Taurus, it covers nearly 3 degrees (6 full moons) on the sky. That corresponds to a width of 150 light-years at the stellar debris cloud's estimated distance of 3,000 light-years. The remarkable composite includes image data taken through narrow-band filters to highlight emission from hydrogen and oxygen atoms tracing regions of shocked, glowing gas. This supernova remnant has an estimated age of about 40,000 years - meaning light from the massive stellar explosion first reached Earth 40,000 years ago. But this expanding remnant is not the only aftermath. The cosmic catastrophe also left behind a spinning neutron star or pulsar, all that remains of the original star's core.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2011 January 25 - The Rippled Red Ribbons of SNR 0509
Explanation: What is causing the picturesque ripples of supernova remnant SNR 0509-67.5? The ripples, as well as the greater nebula, were imaged in unprecedented detail by the Hubble Space Telescope in 2006 and again late last year. The red color was recoded by a Hubble filter that left only the light emitted by energetic hydrogen. The precise reason for the ripples remains unknown, with two considered origin hypotheses relating them to relatively dense portions of either ejected or impacted gas. The reason for the broader red glowing ring is more clear, with expansion speed and light echos relating it to a classic Type Ia supernova explosion that must have occurred about 400 years earlier. SNR 0509 currently spans about 23 light years and lies about 160,000 light years away toward the constellation of the dolphinfish (Dorado) in the Large Magellanic Cloud. The expanding ring carries with it another great mystery, however: why wasn't this supernova seen 400 years ago when light from the initial blast should have passed the Earth?

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2010 September 10 - Vela Supernova Remnant
Explanation: The plane of our Milky Way Galaxy runs through this complex and beautiful skyscape. At the northwestern edge of the constellation Vela (the Sails) the four frame mosaic is over 10 degrees wide, centered on the glowing filaments of the Vela Supernova Remnant, the expanding debris cloud from the death explosion of a massive star. Light from the supernova explosion that created the Vela remnant reached Earth about 11,000 years ago. In addition to the shocked filaments of glowing gas, the cosmic catastrophe also left behind an incredibly dense, rotating stellar core, the Vela Pulsar. Some 800 light-years distant, the Vela remnant is likely embedded in a larger and older supernova remnant, the Gum Nebula.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2010 June 30 - Fast Gas Bullet from Cosmic Blast N49
Explanation: What is that strange blue blob on the far right? No one is sure, but it might be a speeding remnant of a powerful supernova that was unexpectedly lopsided. Scattered debris from supernova explosion N49 lights up the sky in this gorgeous composited image based on data from the Chandra and Hubble Space Telescopes. Glowing visible filaments, shown in yellow, and X-ray hot gas, shown in blue, 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 about 30 years ago on 1979 March 5. 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, visible near the top of the image, hurtles through the supernova debris cloud at over 70 thousand kilometers per hour. The blue blob on the far right, however, might have been expelled asymmetrically just as a massive star was exploding. If so, it now appears to be moving over 7 million kilometers per hour.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2010 May 15 - The Elusive Jellyfish Nebula
Explanation: Normally faint and elusive, the Jellyfish Nebula is caught in this alluring, false-color, telescopic view. Flanked by two bright stars, Mu and Eta Geminorum, at the foot of a celestial twin, the Jellyfish Nebula is the brighter arcing ridge of emission with dangling tentacles below and right of center. In fact, the cosmic jellyfish is seen to be part of bubble-shaped supernova remnant IC 443, the expanding debris cloud from a massive star that exploded. Light from the explosion first reached planet Earth over 30,000 years ago. Like its cousin in astrophysical waters the Crab Nebula supernova remnant, IC 443 is known to harbor a neutron star, the remnant of the collapsed stellar core. Emission nebula Sharpless 249 fills the field at the upper left. The Jellyfish Nebula is about 5,000 light-years away. At that distance, this image would be about 300 light-years across. The color scheme used in the narrowband composite was made popular in Hubble Space Telescope images, mapping emission from oxygen, hydrogen, and sulfur atoms to blue, green and red colors.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2009 November 12 - Art and Science in NGC 918
Explanation: This beautiful telescopic skyscape features spiral galaxy NGC 918. The island universe is about 50,000 light-years across and lies some 60 million light-years away toward the constellation Aries. An artistic presentation, the image shows spiky foreground stars in our own Milky Way Galaxy and convoluted dust clouds that hang hundreds of light-years above our galactic plane, dimly reflecting starlight. It also captures NGC 918 in a cosmic moment important to astrophysicists on planet Earth. Light from supernova SN2009js, absent in previous images, is indicated by the two lines just below and left of the galaxy's center. The supernova itself is the death explosion of a massive star within the plane of galaxy NGC 918. It was just discovered in October by supernova search teams in Japan and the US.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2009 September 5 - Supernova Remnant E0102 72
Explanation: The expanding debris cloud from the explosion of a massive star is captured in this multiwavelength composite, combining x-ray and optical images from the Chandra and Hubble telescopes. Identified as E0102-72, the supernova remnant lies about 190,000 light-years away in our neighboring galaxy, the Small Magellanic Cloud. A strong cosmic source of x-rays, E0102 was imaged by the Chandra X-ray Observatory shortly after its launch in 1999. In celebration of Chandra's 10th anniversary, this colorful view of E0102 and its environs was created, including additional Chandra data. An analysis of all the data indicates that the overall shape of E0102 is most likely a cylinder that is viewed end-on rather than a spherical bubble. The intriguing result implies that the massive star's explosion has produced a shape similar to what is seen in some planetary nebulae associated with lower mass stars. At the distance of the Small Magellanic Cloud, this field of view spans about 150 light-years.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2009 August 1 - SN 1006 Supernova Remnant
Explanation: A new star, likely the brightest supernova in recorded human history, lit up planet Earth's sky in the year 1006 AD. The expanding debris cloud from the stellar explosion, found in the southerly constellation of Lupus, still puts on a cosmic light show across the electromagnetic spectrum. In fact, this composite view includes X-ray data in blue from the Chandra Observatory, optical data in yellowish hues, and radio image data in red. Now known as the SN 1006 supernova remnant, the debris cloud appears to be about 60 light-years across and is understood to represent the remains of a white dwarf star. Part of a binary star system, the compact white dwarf gradually captured material from its companion star. The buildup in mass finally triggered a thermonuclear explosion that destroyed the dwarf star. Because the distance to the supernova remnant is about 7,000 light-years, that explosion actually happened 7,000 years before the light reached Earth in 1006. Shockwaves in the remnant accelerate particles to extreme energies and are thought to be a source of the mysterious cosmic rays.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2009 July 9 - Fermi's Gamma ray Pulsars
Explanation: Born in supernovae, pulsars are spinning neutron stars, collapsed stellar cores left from the death explosions of massive stars. Traditionally identified and studied by observing their regular radio pulsations, two dozen pulsars have now been detected at extreme gamma-ray energies by the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope. The detections include 16 pulsars identified by their pulsed gamma-ray emission alone. This gamma-ray all-sky map, aligned with the plane of our Milky Way Galaxy, shows the pulsar positions, with the 16 new Fermi pulsars circled in yellow (8 previously known radio pulsars are in magenta). Bizarre stellar corpses, the Vela, Crab, and Geminga pulsars on the right are the brightest ones in the gamma-ray sky. Pulsars Taz, Eel, and Rabbit are named for the nebulae they are now known to power. The Gamma Cygni and CTA 1 pulsars at the left also reside within expanding supernova remnants of the same name.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2009 June 12 - SNR 0104: An Unusual Suspect
Explanation: SNR 0104 is a supernova remnant with an unusual shape. Found 190,000 light-years away in our neighboring galaxy the Small Magellanic Cloud, SNR 0104 is suspected of being the expanding debris cloud from a Type 1a supernova - the catastrophic thermonuclear explosion of a white dwarf star. For example, like Type 1a supernova remnants within our galaxy, investigations show that it contains large amounts of iron. But unlike other Type 1a remnants, including the well-studied Tycho, Kepler, and SN 1006, SNR 0104 is definitely not spherical. In fact, the remnant's shape suggests this supernova explosion was very asymmetric and produced strong jets. This intriguing composite image combines Chandra Observatory x-ray data of the remnant, shown in purple hues, with Spitzer Space Telescope infrared data covering the wider region, mapped to red and green colors. It indicates that the supernova explosion took place in the complicated and dense environment of a star-forming region. So, an alternative explanation is that the expanding debris cloud is sweeping up clumpy interstellar material, accounting for the odd shape. The broad, multiwavelength view spans about 1,800 light-years at the estimated distance of SNR 0104.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2009 March 17 - Tycho's Supernova Remnant
Explanation: What star created this huge puffball? Pictured above is the best multi-wavelength image yet of Tycho's supernova remnant, the result of a stellar explosion first recorded over 400 years ago by the famous astronomer Tycho Brahe. The above image is a composite of an X-ray image taken by the orbiting Chandra X-ray Observatory, an infrared image taken by the orbiting Spitzer Space Telescope, and an optical image taken by the 3.5-meter Calar Alto telescope located in southern Spain. The expanding gas cloud is extremely hot, while slightly different expansion speeds have given the cloud a puffy appearance. Although the star that created SN 1572, is likely completely gone, a star dubbed Tycho G, too dim to be easily discerned here, is being studied as the possible companion. Finding progenitor remnants of Tycho's supernova is particularly important because the supernova was recently determined to be of Type Ia. The peak brightness of Type Ia supernovas is thought to be well understood, making them quite valuable in calibrating how our universe dims distant objects.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2009 January 31 - Simeis 147: Supernova Remnant
Explanation: It's easy to get lost following the intricate filaments in this detailed image of faint supernova remnant Simeis 147. Also cataloged as Sh2-240 and seen towards the constellation Taurus, it covers nearly 3 degrees (6 full moons) on the sky. That corresponds to a width of 150 light-years at the stellar debris cloud's estimated distance of 3,000 light-years. The remarkable narrow-band composite image in the Hubble color palette includes emission from hydrogen, sulfur, and oxygen atoms tracing regions of shocked, glowing gas. This supernova remnant has an estimated age of about 40,000 years - meaning light from the massive stellar explosion first reached Earth 40,000 years ago. But this expanding remnant is not the only aftermath. The cosmic catastrophe also left behind a spinning neutron star or pulsar, all that remains of the original star's core.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2008 September 15 - SN 1006: A Supernova Ribbon from Hubble
Explanation: What created this unusual space ribbon? Most assuredly, one of the most violent explosions ever witnessed by ancient humans. Back in the year 1006 AD, light reached Earth from a stellar explosion in the constellation of the Wolf (Lupus), creating a "guest star" in the sky that appeared brighter than Venus and lasted for over two years. The supernova, now cataloged at SN 1006, occurred about 7,000 light years away and has left a large remnant that continues to expand and fade today. Pictured above is a small part of that expanding supernova remnant dominated by a thin and outwardly moving shock front that heats and ionizes surrounding ambient gas. SN 1006 now has a diameter of nearly 60 light years. Within the past year, an even more powerful explosion occurred far across the universe that was visible to modern humans, without any optical aid, for a few seconds.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2008 July 4 - SN 1006 Supernova Remnant
Explanation: A new star, likely the brightest supernova in recorded human history, lit up planet Earth's sky in the year 1006 AD. The expanding debris cloud from the stellar explosion, found in the southerly constellation of Lupus, still puts on a cosmic light show across the electromagnetic spectrum. In fact, this composite view includes X-ray data in blue from the Chandra Observatory, optical data in yellowish hues, and radio image data in red. Now known as the SN 1006 supernova remnant, the debris cloud appears to be about 60 light-years across and is understood to represent the remains of a white dwarf star. Part of a binary star system, the compact white dwarf gradually captured material from its companion star. The buildup in mass finally triggered a thermonuclear explosion that destroyed the dwarf star. Because the distance to the supernova remnant is about 7,000 light-years, that explosion actually happened 7,000 years before the light reached Earth in 1006. Shockwaves in the remnant accelerate particles to extreme energies and are thought to be a source of the mysterious cosmic rays.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2008 March 6 - Vela Supernova Remnant
Explanation: The plane of our Milky Way Galaxy runs through this complex and beautiful skyscape. At the northwestern edge of the constellation Vela (the Sails) the 16 degree wide, 30 frame mosaic is centered on the glowing filaments of the Vela Supernova Remnant, the expanding debris cloud from the death explosion of a massive star. Light from the supernova explosion that created the Vela remnant reached Earth about 11,000 years ago. In addition to the shocked filaments of glowing gas, the cosmic catastrophe also left behind an incredibly dense, rotating stellar core, the Vela Pulsar. Some 800 light-years distant, the Vela remnant is likely embedded in a larger and older supernova remnant, the Gum Nebula. The broad mosaic includes other identified emission and reflection nebulae, star clusters, and the remarkable Pencil Nebula.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2008 January 18 - Supernova Factory NGC 2770
Explanation: The stellar explosions known as supernovae are among the most powerful events in the universe. Triggered by the collapsing core of a massive star or the nuclear demise of a white dwarf, supernovae occur in average spiral galaxies only about once every century. But the remarkable spiral galaxy NGC 2770 has lately produced more than its fair share. Two still bright supernovae and the location of a third, originally spotted in 1999 but now faded from view, are indicated in this image of the edge-on spiral. All three supernovae are now thought to be of the core-collapse variety, but the most recent of the trio, SN2008D, was first detected by the Swift satellite at more extreme energies as an X-ray flash (XRF) or possibly a low-energy version of a gamma-ray burst on January 9th. Located a mere 90 million light-years away in the northern constellation Lynx, NGC 2770 is now the closest galaxy known to host such a powerful supernova event.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2008 January 15 - Double Supernova Remnants DEM L316
Explanation: Are these two supernova shells related? To help find out, the 8-meter Gemini Telescope located high atop a mountain in Chile was pointed at the unusual, huge, double-lobed cloud dubbed DEM L316. The resulting image, shown above, yields tremendous detail. Inspection of the image as well as data taken by the orbiting Chandra X-Ray Observatory indicate how different the two supernova remnants are. In particular, the smaller shell appears to be the result of Type Ia supernova where a white dwarf exploded, while the larger shell appears to be the result of a Type II supernova where a massive normal star exploded. Since those two stellar types evolve on such different time scales, they likely did not form together and so are likely not physically associated. Considering also that no evidence exists that the shells are colliding, the two shells are now hypothesized to be superposed by chance. DEM L316 lies about 160,000 light years away in the neighboring Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) galaxy, spans about 140 light-years across, and appears toward the southern constellation of the Swordfish (Dorado).

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2007 October 16 - SN 2005ap: The Brightest Supernova Yet Found
Explanation: What could cause a bang this big? This supernova explosion was so inherently bright that it could be seen nearly 5 billion light years away (a redshift of 0.28) even with a small telescope. Specific colors emitted during SN 2005ap indicate that it was a Type II supernova, a breed of stellar explosion that results when a high mass star begins fusing heavy elements in or near its core. Type II supernovas may be more powerful than their Type Ia cousins, but they are not currently more useful cosmologically because astronomers don't understand how to accurately recover their intrinsic brightnesses. It is therefore dimmer Type Ia supernovas that are used by astronomers to calibrate the distance scale of the nearby universe. Were Type II supernova better understood, astronomers might be able to probe distances further into the universe, and so probe the stability of the strange dark energy that dominates the present universe. Pictured above in a digitally compressed image, the bright supernova SN 2005ap is visible on the right where no exploding star had been seen on the left less than three months before.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2007 May 10 - SN 2006GY: Brightest Supernova
Explanation: The stellar explosion cataloged as supernova SN 2006gy shines in this wide-field image (left) of its host galaxy, NGC 1260, and expanded view (upper right panel) of the region surrounding the galaxy's core. In fact, given its estimated distance of 240 million light-years, SN 2006gy was brighter than, and has stayed brighter longer than, any previously seen supernova. The Chandra observations in the lower right panel establish the supernova's x-ray brightness and lend strong evidence to the theory that SN 2006gy was the death explosion of a star well over 100 times as massive as the Sun. In such an exceptionally massive star, astronomers suspect an instability producing matter-antimatter pairs led to the cosmic blast and obliterated the stellar core. Thus, unlike in other massive star supernovae, neither neutron star, or even black hole, would remain. Intriguingly, analogs in our own galaxy for SN 2006gy's progenitor may include the well-known, extremely massive star Eta Carinae.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2007 February 13 - Vela Supernova Remnant in Visible Light
Explanation: The explosion is over but the consequences continue. About eleven thousand years ago a star in the constellation of Vela could be seen to explode, creating a strange point of light briefly visible to humans living near the beginning of recorded history. The outer layers of the star crashed into the interstellar medium, driving a shock wave that is still visible today. A roughly spherical, expanding shock wave is visible in X-rays. The above image captures much of that filamentary and gigantic shock in visible light, spanning almost 100 light years and appearing twenty times the diameter of the full moon. As gas flies away from the detonated star, it decays and reacts with the interstellar medium, producing light in many different colors and energy bands. Remaining at the center of the Vela Supernova Remnant is a pulsar, a star as dense as nuclear matter that completely rotates more than ten times in a single second.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2007 January 16 - Keplers Supernova Remnant in X Rays
Explanation: What caused this mess? Some type of star exploded to create the unusually shaped nebula known as Kepler's supernova remnant, but which type? Light from the stellar explosion that created this energized cosmic cloud was first seen on planet Earth in October 1604, a mere four hundred years ago. The supernova produced a bright new star in early 17th century skies within the constellation Ophiuchus. It was studied by astronomer Johannes Kepler and his contemporaries, with out the benefit of a telescope, as they searched for an explanation of the heavenly apparition. Armed with a modern understanding of stellar evolution, early 21st century astronomers continue to explore the expanding debris cloud, but can now use orbiting space telescopes to survey Kepler's supernova remnant (SNR) across the spectrum. Recent X-ray data and images of Kepler's supernova remnant taken by the orbiting Chandra X-ray Observatory has shown relative elemental abundances more typical of a Type Ia supernova, indicating that the progenitor was a white dwarf star that exploded when it accreted too much material and went over Chandrasekhar's limit. About 13,000 light years away, Kepler's supernova represents the most recent stellar explosion seen to occur within our Milky Way galaxy.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2007 January 7 - The Mysterious Rings of Supernova 1987A
Explanation: What's causing those odd rings in supernova 1987A? In 1987, the brightest supernova in recent history occurred in the Large Magellanic Clouds. At the center of the picture is an object central to the remains of the violent stellar explosion. When the Hubble Space Telescope was pointed at the supernova remnant in 1994, however, the existence of curious rings was confirmed. The origins of these rings still remains a mystery. Speculation into the cause of the rings includes beamed jets emanating from a dense star left over from the supernova, and a superposition of two stellar winds ionized by the supernova explosion.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2006 September 28- RCW 86: Historical Supernova Remnant
Explanation: In 185 AD, Chinese astronomers recorded the appearance of a new star in the Nanmen asterism - a part of the sky identified with Alpha and Beta Centauri on modern star charts. The new star was visible for months and is thought to be the earliest recorded supernova. Data from two orbiting X-ray telescopes of the 21st century, XMM-Newton and Chandra, now offer evidence that supernova remnant RCW 86 is indeed the debris from that stellar explosion. Their composite, false-color view of RCW 86 shows the expanding shell of material glowing in x-rays with high, medium, and low energies shown in blue, green, and red hues. Shock velocities measured in the x-ray emitting shell and an estimated radius of about 50 light-years can be used to find the apparent age of the remnant. The results indicate that light from the initial explosion could well have first reached planet Earth in 185 AD. Near the plane of our Milky Way Galaxy, RCW 86 is about 8,200 light-years away.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2006 August 29 - Supernova Remnant E0102 from Hubble
Explanation: It's the blue wisp near the bottom that's the remnant of a tremendous recent supernova explosion. The large pink structure looming to the upper right is part of N76, a large star forming region in our neighboring Small Magellanic Cloud (SMC) galaxy. The supernova remnant wisp, with full coordinate name 1E0102.2-7219 and frequently abbreviated as E0102, also lies in the SMC, about 50 light years away from N76. The above image is a composite of several images taken by the Hubble Space Telescope. E0102 is of research interest because we see it as it appeared only 2,000 years after its explosion. Examination of E0102 therefore gives clues about how an enigmatic supernova works and what materials it dispersed into the surrounding interstellar medium.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2006 July 28 - Four Supernova Remnants
Explanation: These four panels show x-ray images of expanding cosmic debris clouds, tens of light-years across, in nearby galaxy the Large Magellanic Cloud. The supernova remnants (SNRs) are the results of two types of stellar explosions and are arranged in order of apparent age or the time since light from the initial explosion first reached planet Earth. Clockwise starting at the upper left are remnants aged 600 years, 1,500 years, 10,000 years and 13,000 years. The first three result from a Type Ia explosion - the destruction of a white dwarf star by a thermonuclear blast triggered by mass accreted from a stellar companion. The fourth (lower left) is a Type II explosion - triggered by the final collapse of the core of a massive star. A neutron star, the remnant of the collapsed core, lies at its center.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2006 June 2 - IC 443: Supernova Remnant and Neutron Star
Explanation: IC 443 is typical of the aftermath of a stellar explosion, the ultimate fate of massive stars. Seen in this false-color composite image, the supernova remnant is still glowing across the spectrum, from radio (blue) to optical (red) to x-ray (green) energies -- even though light from the stellar explosion that created the expanding cosmic cloud first reached planet Earth thousands of years ago. The odd thing about IC 443 is the apparent motion of its dense neutron star, the collapsed remnant of the stellar core. The close-up inset shows the swept-back wake created as the neutron star hurtles through the hot gas, but that direction is not aligned with the direction toward the apparent center of the remnant. The misalignment suggests that the explosion site was offset from the center or that fast-moving gas in the nebula has influenced the wake. The wide view of IC 443, also known as the Jellyfish nebula, spans about 65 light-years at the supernova remnant's estimated distance of 5,000 light-years.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2006 April 30 - 1006 AD: Supernova in the Sky
Explanation: A new star, likely the brightest supernova in recorded human history, appeared in planet Earth's sky about 1,000 years ago today, in 1006 AD. The expanding debris cloud from the stellar explosion is still visible to modern astronomers, but what did the supernova look like in 1006? In celebration of the millennial anniversary of SN1006, astronomer Tunc Tezel offers this intriguing suggestion, based on a photograph he took on February 22, 1998 from a site overlooking the Mediterranean south of Antalya, Turkey. On that date, bright Venus and a waning crescent Moon shone in the early morning sky. Adopting calculations which put the supernova's apparent brightness between Venus and the crescent Moon, he digitally superposed an appropriate new star in the picture. He placed the star at the supernova's position in the southerly constellation of Lupus and used the water's reflection of moonlight in the final image.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2006 March 7 - A Nearby Supernova in Spiral Galaxy M100
Explanation: One of the nearer supernovas of recent years was discovered last month in the bright nearby galaxy M100. The supernova, dubbed SN 2006X, is still near its maximum brightness and visible with a telescope toward the constellation of Berenice's Hair (Coma Berenices) The supernova, pictured above, has been identified as Type Ia indicating that a white dwarf star in the picturesque spiral galaxy has gone near its Chandrasekhar limit and exploded. Although hundreds of supernovas are now discovered each year by automated searches, nearby supernova are rare and important because they frequently become bright enough to be studied by many telescopes and are near enough for their immediate surroundings to be spatially resolved. Supernova 2006X's host galaxy M100 resides in the Virgo Cluster of Galaxies located about 50 million light years from Earth.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2007 February 17 - Supernova Remnant and Shock Wave
Explanation: A massive star ends life as a supernova, blasting its outer layers back to interstellar space. The spectacular death explosion is initiated by the collapse of what has become an impossibly dense stellar core. Pictured is the expanding supernova remnant Puppis A - one of the brightest sources in the x-ray sky. Now seen to be about 10 light-years in diameter, light from the initial stellar explosion first reached Earth a few thousand years ago. Recorded by the Chandra Observatory's x-ray cameras, the inset view shows striking details of the strong shock wave disrupting an interstellar cloud as the shock sweeps through preexisting material. The larger field ROSAT image also captures a pinpoint source of x-rays near the remnant's center. The source is a young neutron star, the remnant of the collapsed stellar core kicked out by the explosion and moving away at about 1,000 kilometers per second.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2006 January 25 - The Expanding Light Echoes of SN 1987A
Explanation: Can you find supernova 1987A? It isn't hard -- it occurred at the center of the expanding bullseye pattern. Although this stellar detonation was first seen almost two decades ago, light from it continues to bounce off clumps of interstellar dust and be reflected to us today. These expanding light echoes have been recorded in the above time-lapse movie recorded over four years from the Blanco 4-meter telescope in Chile. The first image is an image of the SN 1987A region, while the next four images were created by subtracting consecutive images, taken a year apart, and leaving only the difference between the images. Light echoes can be seen moving out from the position of the supernova. The SuperMACHO team who recorded the above light echoes around supernova 1987A has also found faint and previously unnoticed light echoes from two other LMC supernovas. Study of these light echoes has enabled more accurate determinations of the location and date of these two supernova explosions that were first visible hundreds of years ago.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2005 December 26 - SN 1006: Supernova Remnant in X Rays
Explanation: This huge puff ball was once a star. One thousand years ago, in the year 1006, a new star was recorded in the sky that today we know was really an existing star exploding. The resulting expanding gas from the supernova is still visible with telescopes today, continues to expand, and now spans over 70 light years. SN 1006 glows in every type of light. The above image of SN 1006 was captured by the orbiting Chandra Observatory in X-ray light. Even today, not everything about the SN 1006 is understood, for example why particle shocks that produce the bright blue filaments are only visible at some locations. SN 1006 is thought to have once been a white dwarf that exploded when gas being dumped onto it by its binary star companion caused it to go over the Chandrasekhar limit. Foreground stars are visible that have nothing to do with the supernova.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2005 November 29 - Simeis 147: Supernova Remnant from Palomar
Explanation: It's easy to get lost following the intricate filaments in this detailed image of faint supernova remnant Simeis 147. Seen towards the constellation Taurus it covers nearly 3 degrees (6 full moons) on the sky corresponding to a width of 150 light-years at the stellar debris cloud's estimated distance of 3,000 light-years. The above image is a color composite of 66 blue and red color band images from the National Geographic Palomar Observatory Sky Survey taken with the wide field Samuel Oschin 48-inch Telescope. The area of the sky shown covers over 70 times the area of the full Moon. This supernova remnant has an apparent age of about 100,000 years - meaning light from the massive stellar explosion first reached Earth 100,000 years ago - but this expanding remnant is not the only aftermath. The cosmic catastrophe also left behind a spinning neutron star or pulsar, all that remains of the original star's core.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2005 October 25 - Supernova Remnant N132D in Optical and X Rays
Explanation: Thousands of years after a star exploded, its expanding remnant still glows brightly across the spectrum. Such is the case with N132D, a supernova remnant located in the neighboring Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) galaxy. The expanding shell from this explosion now spans 80 light-years and has swept up about 600 Suns worth of mass. N132D was imaged recently in optical light and in great detail with the Hubble Space Telescope. The Hubble image was then combined with a position coincident detailed image in X-ray light taken by the Chandra X-ray Observatory. The combination, shown above in representative colors, shows a nearly spherical expanding shockwave highlighted by pink emission from hydrogen gas and purple emission from oxygen gas. A dense field of unrelated stars also from the LMC populates the image. Studying the image gives an opportunity to study material once hidden deep inside a star. N132D spans about 150 light years and lies about 160,000 light years away toward the constellation of Dorado.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2005 September 10 - Supernova Survivor
Explanation: Beginning with a full view of beautiful spiral galaxy M81, follow the insets (left, bottom, then right) to zoom in on a real survivor. Seen at the center of the final field on the right is a star identified as the survivor of a cosmic cataclysm -- the supernova explosion of its companion star. Light from the cosmic blast, likely triggered by the core collapse of a star initially more than 10 times as massive as the Sun, first reached Earth over 10 years ago and was cataloged as supernova SN 1993J. Though the supernova itself is no longer visible, light-echoes from dust in the region can still be seen near the companion, the first known survivor of a supernova in a binary star system. Astronomers believe that a substantial transfer of material to the surviving companion star during the last few hundred years before the stellar explosion can explain peculiarities seen in this supernova. After supernova SN 1987A in the Large Magellanic Cloud, SN 1993J in nearby M81 is the brightest supernova seen in modern times.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2005 August 13 - SNR 0103 72.6: Oxygen Supply
Explanation: A supernova explosion, a massive star's inevitable and spectacular demise, blasts back into space debris enriched in the heavy elements forged in its stellar core. Incorporated into future stars and planets, these are the elements ultimately necessary for life. Seen here in a false-color x-ray image, supernova remnant SNR 0103-72.6 is revealed to be just such an expanding debris cloud in neighboring galaxy, the Small Magellanic Cloud. Judging from the measured size of the expanding outer ring of shock-heated gas, about 150 light-years, light from the original supernova explosion would have first reached Earth about 10,000 years ago. Hundreds of supernova remnants have been identified as much sought after astronomical laboratories for studying the cycle of element synthesis and enrichment, but the x-ray data also show that the hot gas at the center of this particular supernova remnant is exceptionally rich in neon and oxygen.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2005 July 19 - A Nearby Supernova in M51
Explanation: One of the nearest supernovas of recent years was discovered late last month in the bright nearby galaxy M51. It is visible on the right of the above before and after images of the picturesque spiral. Can you spot it? The supernova, discovered originally by Wolfgang Kloehr and now dubbed 2005cs, is still near its maximum brightness and visible with a telescope toward the constellation of the Hunting Dogs (Canes Venatici). The supernova has been identified as a Type II but has an unusual brightness history, creating speculation that is similar in nature to the brightest supernova of modern times: 1987A. The progenitor star has been identified as a bright blue star. Although hundreds of supernovas are discovered each year by automated searches, nearby supernova are rare and important because they frequently become bright enough to be studied by many telescopes and are near enough for their (former) host star and immediate surroundings to be spatially resolved. Supernova 2005cs may have left behind a core that has been compressed into a neutron star or black hole.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2005 June 15 - Cassiopeia A Light Echoes in Infrared
Explanation: Why is the image of Cassiopeia A changing? Two images of the nearby supernova remnant taken a year apart in infrared light appear to show outward motions at tremendous speeds. This was unexpected since the supernova that created the picturesque nebula was seen 325 years ago. The reason is likely light echoes. Light from the supernova heated up distant ambient dust that is just beginning to show its glow. As time goes by, more distant dust lights up, giving the appearance of outward motion. The above image is a composite of X-ray, optical, and infrared light exposures that have been digitally combined. The infrared light image was taken by the orbiting Spitzer Space Telescope and was used in the discovery of the light echo. The portion of Cassiopeia A shown spans about 15 light years and lies 10,000 light years away toward the constellation of Cassiopeia.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2005 June 8 - Rampaging Supernova Remnant N63A
Explanation: What has this supernova left behind? As little as 2,000 years ago, light from a massive stellar explosion in the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) first reached planet Earth. The LMC is a close galactic neighbor of our Milky Way Galaxy and the rampaging explosion front is now seen moving out - destroying or displacing ambient gas clouds while leaving behind relatively dense knots of gas and dust. What remains is one of the largest supernova remnants in the LMC: N63A. Many of the surviving dense knots have been themselves compressed and may further contract to form new stars. Some of the resulting stars may then explode in a supernova, continuing the cycle. Pictured above is a close-up of one of the largest remaining knots of dust and gas in N63A taken by the orbiting Hubble Space Telescope. N63A spans over 25 light years and lies about 150,000 light years away toward the southern constellation of Dorado.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2005 April 21 - G21.5-0.9: A Supernova's Cosmic Shell
Explanation: The picture is lovely, but this pretty cosmic shell was produced by almost unbelievable violence - created when a star with nearly 20 times the mass of the sun blasted away its outer layers in a spectacular supernova explosion. As the expanding debris cloud swept through surrounding interstellar material, shock waves heated the gas causing the supernova remnant to glow in x-rays. In fact, it is possible that all supernova explosions create similar shells, some brighter than others. Cataloged as G21.5-0.9, this shell supernova remnant is relatively faint, requiring about 150 hours of x-ray data from the orbiting Chandra Observatory to create this false-color image. G21.5-0.9 is about 20,000 light-years distant in the constellation Scutum and measures about 30 light-years across. Based on the remnant's size, astronomers estimate that light from the original stellar explosion first reached Earth several thousand years ago.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2005 April 2 - Cyg X-1: Can Black Holes Form in the Dark?
Explanation: The formation of a black hole from the collapsing core of a massive star is thought to be heralded by a spectacular supernova explosion. Such an extremely energetic collapse is also a leading explanation for the mysterious cosmic gamma-ray bursts. But researchers now suggest that the Milky Way's most famous black hole, Cygnus X-1, was born when a massive star collapsed -- without any supernova explosion at all. Their dynamical evidence is summarized in this color image of a gorgeous region in Cygnus, showing Cyg X-1 and a cluster of massive stars (yellow circles) known as Cygnus OB3. Arrows compare the measured direction and speed of Cyg X-1 and the average direction and speed of the massive stars of Cyg OB3. The similar motions indicate that Cyg X-1's progenitor star was itself a cluster member and that its path was not altered at all when it became a black hole. In contrast, if Cyg X-1 were born in a violent supernova it would have likely received a fierce kick, changing its course. If not a supernova, could the formation of the Cyg X-1 black hole have produced a dark gamma-ray burst in the Milky Way?

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2005 March 24 - Simeis 147: Supernova Remnant
Explanation: It's easy to get lost following the intricate filaments in this detailed image of faint supernova remnant Simeis 147. Seen towards the constellation Taurus it covers nearly 3 degrees (6 full moons) on the sky corresponding to a width of 150 light-years at the stellar debris cloud's estimated distance of 3,000 light-years. The color composite image includes eight hours of exposure time with an H-alpha filter, transmiting only the light from recombining hydrogen atoms in the expanding nebulosity and tracing the regions of shocked, glowing gas. This supernova remnant has an apparent age of about 100,000 years - meaning light from the massive stellar explosion first reached Earth 100,000 years ago - but this expanding remnant is not the only aftermath. The cosmic catastrophe also left behind a spinning neutron star or pulsar, all that remains of the original star's core.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2004 November 5 - Supernova Remnant Imaged in Gamma Rays
Explanation: Gamma rays are the most energetic form of light. With up to a billion times the energy of ordinary "medical" x-rays, they easily penetrate telescope lenses and mirrors, making it very difficult to create gamma-ray images of cosmic sources. Still, an array of large telescopes designed to detect gamma-ray induced atmospheric flashes - the HESS (High Energy Stereoscopic System) experiment - has produced this historic, resolved image of a supernova remnant at extreme gamma-ray energies. Astronomers note that the premier gamma-ray view of the expanding stellar debris cloud is clearly similar to x-ray images of the remnant and convincingly supports the idea that these sites of powerful shock waves are also sources of cosmic rays within our galaxy. The gamma-ray intensity is color-coded in the picture, shown with dark contour lines that trace levels of x-ray emission from the object. At an estimated distance of 3,000 light-years, the supernova remnant measures about 50 light-years across and lies near the galactic plane.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2004 October 8 - Kepler's SNR from Chandra, Hubble, Spitzer
Explanation: Light from the stellar explosion that created this energized cosmic cloud was first seen on planet Earth in October 1604, a mere four hundred years ago. The supernova produced a bright new star in early 17th century skies within the constellation Ophiuchus. It was studied by astronomer Johannes Kepler and his contemporaries, with out the benefit of a telescope, as they searched for an explanation of the heavenly apparition. Armed with a modern understanding of stellar evolution, early 21st century astronomers continue to explore the expanding debris cloud, but can now use orbiting space telescopes to survey Kepler's supernova remnant (SNR) across the spectrum. In this tantalizing composite image, x-rays, visible light, and infrared radiation recorded by NASA's astrophysical observatories - the Chandra X-Ray Observatory, Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes - are combined to give a more comprehensive view of the still enigmatic supernova remnant. About 13,000 light years away, Kepler's supernova represents the most recent stellar explosion seen to occur within our Milky Way galaxy.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2004 September 16 - Microquasar in Motion
Explanation: Microquasars, bizarre binary star systems generating high-energy radiation and blasting out jets of particles at nearly the speed of light, live in our Milky Way galaxy. The energetic microquasar systems seem to consist of a very compact object, either a neutron star or a black hole, formed in a supernova explosion but still co-orbiting with an otherwise normal star. Using a very long array of radio telescopes, astronomers are reporting that at least one microquasar, LSI +61 303, can be traced back to its probable birthplace -- within a cluster of young stars in the constellation Cassiopeia. About 7,500 light-years from Earth, the star cluster and surrounding nebulosity, IC 1805, are shown in the deep sky image above. The cluster stars are identified by yellow boxes and circles. A yellow arrow indicates the common apparent motion of the cluster stars, the green arrow shows the deduced sky motion of the microquasar system, and the red arrow depicts the microquasar's motion relative to the star cluster itself. Seen nearly 130 light-years from the cluster it once called home, a powerful kick from the original supernova explosion likely set this microquasar in motion.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2004 September 7 - A Supernova in Nearby Galaxy NGC 2403
Explanation: The closest and brightest supernova in over a decade was recorded just over a month ago in the outskirts of nearby galaxy NGC 2403. Officially tagged SN 2004dj, the Type IIP explosion likely annihilated most of a blue supergiant star as central fusion could no longer hold it up. The supernova can be seen as the bright object in the above image in the direction of the arrow. The home galaxy to the supernova, spiral galaxy NGC 2403, is located only 11 million light years away and is visible with binoculars toward the northern constellation of Camelopardalis (the Giraffe). The supernova is fading but still visible with a telescope, once peaking at just brighter than magnitude 12. Supernovas of this type change brightness in a predictable way and may be searched for in the distant universe as distance indicators.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2004 August 26- Cassiopeia A in a Million
Explanation: One million seconds of x-ray image data were used to construct this view of supernova remnant Cassiopeia A, the expanding debris cloud from a stellar explosion. The stunningly detailed image from the Chandra Observatory will allow an unprecedented exploration of the catastrophic fate that awaits stars much more massive than the Sun. Seen in false-color, Cas A's outer green ring, 10 light-years or so in diameter, marks the location of the expanding shock from the original supernova explosion. At about 10 o'clock around the ring, a structure extends beyond it, evidence that the initial explosion may have also produced energetic jets. Still glowing in x-rays, the tiny point source near the center of Cas A is a neutron star, the collapsed remains of the stellar core. While Cas A is about 10,000 light-years away, light from the supernova explosion first reached Earth just over 300 years ago.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2004 May 22 - X-Rays From Tycho's Supernova Remnant
Explanation: In 1572, Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe recorded the sudden appearance of a bright new star in the constellation Cassiopeia. The new star faded from view over a period of months and is believed to have been a supernova, one of the last stellar explosions seen in our Milky Way galaxy. Now known as Tycho's Supernova Remnant, the expanding debris cloud is shown in this detailed false-color x-ray image from the orbiting Chandra Observatory. Represented in blue, the highest energy x-rays come from shocked regions along the outer edges of the supernova remnant, corresponding to gas at temperatures of 20 million degrees Celsius. X-rays from cooler gas (only 10 million degrees or so!) dominate the remnant's interior. Unlike some other supernova remnants, no hot central point source can be found, supporting the theory that the origin of this stellar explosion was a runaway nuclear detonation that ultimately destroyed a white dwarf star. At a distance of about 7,500 light-years, Tycho's Supernova Remnant appears to be nearly 20 light-years across. This x-ray picture's field of view slightly cuts off the bottom of the generally spherical cloud.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2004 March 6 - N49's Cosmic Blast
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 only twenty-five years ago 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.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2004 February 20 - SN1987A's Cosmic Pearls
Explanation: In February 1987, light from the brightest stellar explosion seen in modern times reached Earth -- supernova SN1987A. This Hubble Space Telescope image from the sharp Advanced Camera for Surveys taken in November 2003 shows the explosion site over 16 years later. The snap shot indicates that the supernova blast wave continues to impact a pre-existing, one light-year wide ring of material, and the nascent central supernova remnant continues to expand. Like pearls on a cosmic necklace, bright hot spots produced as the blast wave heats material up to millions of degrees began to appear on the ring in the mid 1990s and have been followed across the spectrum by astronomers ever since. Supernova SN1987A lies in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a neighboring galaxy some 170,000 light-years away. That really does mean that the explosive event - the core collapse and detonation of a star about 20 times as massive as the Sun - occurred 170,000 years before February 1987.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2004 February 12 - Supernova Survivor
Explanation: Beginning with a full view of beautiful spiral galaxy M81, follow the insets (left, bottom, then right) to zoom in on a real survivor. Seen at the center of the final field on the right is a star recently identified as the survivor of a cosmic cataclysm -- the supernova explosion of its companion star. Light from the cosmic blast, likely triggered by the core collapse of a star initially more than 10 times as massive as the Sun, first reached Earth over 10 years ago and was cataloged as supernova SN 1993J. Though the supernova itself is no longer visible, light-echoes from dust in the region can still be seen near the companion, the first known survivor of a supernova in a binary star system. Astronomers believe that a substantial transfer of material to the surviving companion star during the last few hundred years before the stellar explosion can explain peculiarities seen in this supernova. After supernova SN 1987A in the Large Magellanic Cloud, SN 1993J in nearby M81 is the brightest supernova seen in modern times.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2003 November 3 - Spiral Galaxy NGC 3982 Before Supernova
Explanation: What do stars look like just before they explode? To find out, astronomers are taking detailed images of nearby galaxies now, before any supernova is visible. Hopefully, a star in one of the hundreds of high resolution galaxy images will explode in the coming years. If so, archival images like that taken above by the Hubble Space Telescope can be inspected to find what the star looked like originally. This information is likely important for better understanding of how and why supernovas occur, as well as why some supernovas appear brighter than others. Pictured above, beautiful spiral galaxy NGC 3982 displays numerous spiral arms filled with bright stars, blue star clusters, and dark dust lanes. NGC 3982, which spans about 30,000 light years, lies about 60 million light years from Earth and can be seen with a small telescope toward the constellation of Ursa Major.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2003 September 11 - NGC 3370: A Sharper View
Explanation: Similar in size and grand design to our own Milky Way, spiral galaxy NGC 3370 lies about 100 million light-years away toward the constellation Leo. Recorded here in exquisite detail by the Hubble Space Telescope's Advanced Camera for Surveys, the big, beautiful face-on spiral does steal the show, but the sharp image also reveals an impressive array of background galaxies in the field, strewn across the more distant Universe. Looking within NGC 3370, the image data has proved sharp enough to study individual pulsating stars known as Cepheids which can be used to accurately determine this galaxy's distance. NGC 3370 was chosen for this study because in 1994 the spiral galaxy was also home to a well studied stellar explosion -- a type Ia supernova. Combining the known distance to this standard candle supernova, based on the Cepheid measurements, with observations of supernovae at even greater distances, can reveal the size and expansion rate of the Universe itself.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2003 September 3 - Galactic Supernova Remnant IC 443
Explanation: About 8000 years ago, a star in our Galaxy exploded. Ancient humans might have noticed the supernova as a temporary star, but modern humans can see the expanding shell of gas even today. Pictured above, part of the shell of IC 443 is seen to be composed of complex filaments, some of which are impacting an existing molecular cloud. Here emission from shock-excited molecular hydrogen is allowing astronomers to study how fast moving supernova gas affects star formation in the cloud. Additionally, astronomers theorize that the impact accelerates some particles to velocities near the speed of light. Supernova remnant IC 443 is also known to shine brightly also in infrared and X-ray light.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2003 July 4 - N49's Cosmic Blast
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.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2003 June 12 - Cyg X-1: Can Black Holes Form in the Dark?
Explanation: The formation of a black hole from the collapsing core of a massive star is thought to be heralded by a spectacular supernova explosion. Such an extremely energetic collapse is also a leading explanation for the mysterious cosmic gamma-ray bursts. But researchers now suggest that the Milky Way's most famous black hole, Cygnus X-1, was born when a massive star collapsed -- without any supernova explosion at all. Their dynamical evidence is summarized in this color image of a gorgeous region in Cygnus, showing Cyg X-1 and a cluster of massive stars (yellow circles) known as Cygnus OB3. Arrows compare the measured direction and speed of Cyg X-1 and the average direction and speed of the massive stars of Cyg OB3. The similar motions indicate that Cyg X-1's progenitor star was itself a cluster member and that its path was not altered at all when it became a black hole. In contrast, if Cyg X-1 were born in a violent supernova it would have likely received a fierce kick, changing its course. If not a supernova, could the formation of the Cyg X-1 black hole have produced a dark gamma-ray burst in the Milky Way?

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2003 June 9 - The Pencil Nebula Supernova Shockwave
Explanation: At 500,000 kilometers per hour, a supernova shockwave plows through interstellar space. This shockwave is known as the Pencil Nebula, or NGC 2736, and is part of the Vela supernova remnant, an expanding shell of a star that exploded about 11,000 years ago. Initially the shockwave was moving at millions of kilometers per hour, but the weight of all the gas it has swept up has slowed it considerably. Pictured above, the shockwave moves from left to right, as can be discerned by the lack of gas on the left. The above region spans nearly a light year across, a small part of the 100+ light-year span of the entire Vela supernova remnant. The Hubble Space Telscope ACS captured the above image last October.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2003 May 28 - SNR 0103-72.6: Oxygen Supply
Explanation: A supernova explosion, a massive star's inevitable and spectacular demise, blasts back into space debris enriched in the heavy elements forged in its stellar core. Incorporated into future stars and planets, these are the elements ultimately necessary for life. Seen here in a false-color x-ray image, supernova remnant SNR 0103-72.6 is revealed to be just such an expanding debris cloud in neighboring galaxy, the Small Magellanic Cloud. Judging from the measured size of the expanding outer ring of shock-heated gas, about 150 light-years, light from the original supernova explosion would have first reached Earth about 10,000 years ago. Hundreds of supernova remnants have been identified as much sought after astronomical laboratories for studying the cycle of element synthesis and enrichment, but the x-ray data also show that the hot gas at the center of this particular supernova remnant is exceptionally rich in neon and oxygen.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2003 May 3 - Denizen of the Tarantula Nebula
Explanation: The star cluster at lower right, cataloged as Hodge 301, is a denizen of the Tarantula Nebula. An evocative nebula in the southern sky, the sprawling cosmic Tarantula is an energetic star forming region some 168,000 light-years distant in our neighboring galaxy the Large Magellanic Cloud. The stars within Hodge 301 formed together tens of millions of years ago and as the massive ones quickly exhaust their nuclear fuel they explode. In fact, the giant stars of Hodge 301 are rapidly approaching this violent final phase of stellar evolution - known as a supernova. These supernova blasts send material and shock waves back into the nebular gas to create the Tarantula's glowing filaments also visible in this Hubble Space Telescope Heritage image. But these spectacular stellar death explosions signal star birth as well, as the blast waves condense gas and dust to ultimately form the next generation of stars inside the Tarantula Nebula.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2003 April 20 - The Gum Nebula Supernova Remnant
Explanation: Because the Gum Nebula is the closest supernova remnant, it is actually hard to see. Spanning 40 degrees across the sky, the nebula is so large and faint it is easily lost in the din of a bright and complex background. The Gum Nebula, highlighted nicely in the above wide angle photograph, is so close that we are much nearer the front edge than the back edge, each measuring 450 and 1500 light years respectively. The complex nebula lies in the direction of the constellations of Puppis and Vela. Oddly, much remains unknown about the Gum Nebula, including the timing and even number of supernova explosions that formed it.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2003 April 14 - A Gamma Ray Burst Supernova Connection
Explanation: New evidence has emerged that a mysterious type of explosion known as a gamma ray burst is indeed connected to a supernova of the type visible in the above image. Two weeks ago, the orbiting HETE satellite detected gamma-ray burst GRB030329. The extremely bright burst was found hours later to have an extremely bright afterglow in visible light, and soon set the record for the closest measured distance at redshift 0.17. The afterglow brightness allows unprecedented coverage of its evolution. Just this week, as many astronomers suspected would happen, the afterglow began to appear as a fading Type II Supernova. Type II Supernovas might not appear coincident with gamma-ray bursts, however, when the gamma-ray beam goes in another direction. The above spiral galaxy, NGC 3184, was home to a Type II Supernova in 1999 at the position of the arrow. Astronomers are currently pressing hard to find the host galaxy for GRB030329.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2003 March 28 - 1006 AD: Supernova in the Sky
Explanation: A new star, likely the brightest supernova in recorded human history, appeared in planet Earth's sky in the year 1006 AD. The expanding debris cloud from the stellar explosion is still visible to modern astronomers, but what did the supernova look like in 1006? Astronomer Tun Tezel offers this suggestion, based on a photograph he took on February 22, 1998 from a site overlooking the Mediterranean south of Antalya, Turkey. On that date, bright Venus and a waning crescent Moon shone in the early morning sky. Adopting recent calculations which put the supernova's apparent brightness between Venus and the crescent Moon, he digitally superposed an appropriate new star in the picture. He placed the star at the supernova's position in the southerly constellation of Lupus and used the water's reflection of moonlight in the final image. Tezel hopes to view the total solar eclipse of 29 March 2006 from this same site -- on the 1,000th anniversary of Supernova 1006.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2003 March 17 - SN 1006: History's Brightest Supernova
Explanation: Suddenly, in the year 1006 AD, a new star appeared in the sky. Over the course of just a few days, the rogue star became brighter than the planet Venus. The star, likely the talk of everyone who could see it, was recorded by people who lived in areas now known as China, Egypt, Iraq, Italy, Japan, and Switzerland. The celestial newcomer, now known to be a supernova, took months to fade. Modern observations have been used to measure the speed of the still-expanding shock wave, allowing a better estimate of its distance and hence a better estimate of the true brightness of the supernova. It turns out SN 1006 likely achieved an apparent visual magnitude of -7.5, making it the brightest supernova on record. The shock wave was imaged in 1998 from CTIO (left panel), and then subtracted from a similar image taken in 1986 (right panel), highlighting the relative expansion.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2002 September 12 - X-Rays From Tycho's Supernova Remnant
Explanation: In 1572, Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe recorded the sudden appearance of a bright new star in the constellation Cassiopeia. The new star faded from view over a period of months and is believed to have been a supernova, one of the last stellar explosions seen in our Milky Way galaxy. Now known as Tycho's Supernova Remnant, the expanding debris cloud is shown in this detailed false-color x-ray image from the orbiting Chandra Observatory. Represented in blue, the highest energy x-rays come from shocked regions along the outer edges of the supernova remnant, corresponding to gas at temperatures of 20 million degrees Celsius. X-rays from cooler gas (only 10 million degrees or so!) dominate the remnant's interior. Unlike some other supernova remnants, no hot central point source can be found, supporting the theory that the origin of this stellar explosion was a runaway nuclear detonation that ultimately destroyed a white dwarf star. At a distance of about 7,500 light-years, Tycho's Supernova Remnant appears to be nearly 20 light-years across. This x-ray picture's field of view slightly cuts off the bottom of the generally spherical cloud.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2002 August 30 - Simeis 147: Supernova Remnant
Explanation: It's easy to get lost following the intricate filaments in this stunningly detailed image of faint supernova remnant Simeis 147. Seen towards the constellation Taurus it covers nearly 3 degrees (6 full moons) on the sky corresponding to a width of 150 light-years at the stellar debris cloud's estimated distance of 3,000 light-years. On three separate nights in December 2001 and January 2002 astronomer Steve Mandel accumulated a total of over eight hours of exposure time to compose this image. He used an astronomical CCD camera, telephoto lens, and his specially designed adapter to allow such wide-field digital imaging. He also used a narrow H-alpha filter to transmit only the the light from recombining hydrogen atoms in the expanding nebulosity, defining the regions of shocked, glowing gas. This supernova remnant has an apparent age of about 100,000 years (light from the original explosion first reached Earth 100,000 years ago) but it is not the only aftermath of the massive stellar explosion. The cosmic catastrophe also left behind a spinning neutron star or pulsar, all that remains of the star's dense core.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2002 August 24 - Cas A Supernova Remnant in X Rays
Explanation: The complex shell of a star seen to explode 300 years ago is helping astronomers to understand how that star exploded. This Chandra Observatory image of supernova remnant Cassiopeia A (Cas A) shows unprecedented detail in three x-ray colors. The relationship between brightness, color, and position of material in the image indicates where in the star this material was just before the explosion. Bright knots on the left, for example, contain little iron, and so are hypothesized to originate from a higher layer than outer red filaments, which are iron rich. The blue region on the right is seen through absorbing dust, and so appears depleted of low-energy x-rays. It takes light ten years to cross the gas shell of the Cas A supernova remnant, which is 10,000 light-years distant. Most of the elements that make people and planets were produced in supernova explosions.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2002 May 17 - Gamma Ray Burst, Supernova Bump
Explanation: On the 21st of November 2001, satellites detected yet another burst of gamma-rays from the cosmos. While this flash of high-energy photons lasted for less than a minute, eager astronomers have been following the fading optical light from the location of the burst source ever since. Seen above in a series of Hubble Space Telescope images recorded from December 4, 2001 to May 5, 2002 (13 through 161 days after the burst), the fading transient lies to the right of a fuzzy, distant galaxy, likely home to the gamma-ray burster. Two constant point-like objects to the left of the galaxy are foreground stars within our own Milky Way. The transient did not not simply fade away, though. Observations from the Hubble, OGLE, and the large Magellan telescope in Chile indicate that it bumped up or brightened again days after the burst in a convincing display characteristic of a supernova - the death explosion of a massive star. These results add to the mounting evidence that at least some of the mysterious cosmic gamma-ray bursts are produced in the violent event which ends the lives of massive stars.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2002 April 5 - Gamma Ray Burst Afterglow: Supernova Connection
Explanation: What causes the mysterious gamma-ray bursts? Indicated in this Hubble Space Telescope exposure of an otherwise unremarkable field in the constellation Crater, is the dwindling optical afterglow of a gamma-ray burst first detected by the Beppo-SAX satellite on 2001 December 11. The burst's host galaxy, billions of light-years distant, is the faint smudge extending above and to the left of the afterglow position. After rapidly catching the fading x-ray light from the burst with the orbiting XMM-Newton observatory, astronomers are now reporting the telltale signatures of elements magnesium, silicon, sulphur, argon, and calcium - material most likely found in an expanding debris cloud produced by the explosion of a massive star. The exciting result is evidence that the gamma-ray burst itself is linked to a very energetic supernova explosion which may have preceded the powerful flash of gamma-rays by up to a few days.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2002 March 31 - The Mysterious Rings of Supernova 1987A
Explanation: What's causing those odd rings in supernova 1987A? In 1987, the brightestsupernova in recent history occurred in the Large Magellanic Clouds. At the center of the picture is an object central to the remains of the violent stellar explosion. When the Hubble Space Telescope was pointed at the supernova remnant in 1994, however, the existence of curious rings was confirmed. The origins of these rings still remains a mystery. Speculation into the cause of the rings includes beamed jets emanating from a dense star left over from the supernova, and a superposition of two stellar winds ionized by the supernova explosion.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2002 February 28 - ESO 184-G82: Supernova - Gamma Ray Burst Connection
Explanation: Modern astronomers keep a long list of things that go bump in the night. Near the top are supernovae - the death explosions of massive stars, and gamma-ray bursts - the most powerful explosions seen across the Universe. Intriguingly, the galaxy in the above Hubble Space Telescope image may have been host to both a supernova and a gamma-ray burst which were one and the same event. ESO 184-G82 is a spiral galaxy with a prominent central bar and loose spiral arms dotted with bright star-forming regions. The inset shows an expanded view of one of the star-forming regions, about 300 light-years across. Indicated is the location of an extraordinarily powerful supernova explosion whose light first reached planet Earth on April 25, 1998. That location and date also correspond to the detection of an unusual gamma-ray burst, which may be representative of a peculiar class of these cosmic high-energy flashes. So far, this combination is unique and makes barred spiral ESO 184-G82, at a distance of only 100 million light-years, the closest known gamma-ray burst host galaxy.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2002 February 23 - Shocked by Supernova 1987A
Explanation: Fifteen years ago today, 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 above in two frames recorded by the Hubble Space Telescope in 1994 (left) and 1997(right). While the central concentration of stellar debris has clearly evolved over this period, the yellow spot on the ring in the righthand picture announces the collision of an outward moving blast wave with the pre-existing, light-year wide ring. The collision is occurring at speeds near 60 million kilometers per hour and shock-heats the ring material causing it to glow. Astronomers are hopeful that such collisions will illuminate the interesting past of SN 1987A, and perhaps provide more clues about the origin of the mysterious rings.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2001 October 27 - Sher 25: A Pending Supernova
Explanation: No supernova has ever been predicted. These dramatic stellar explosions that destroy stars and disperse elements that compose people and planets are not so well understood that astronomers can accurately predict when a star will explode - yet. Perhaps Sher 25 will be the first. Sher 25, designated by the arrow, is a blue supergiant star located just outside the star cluster and emission nebula NGC 3603. Sher 25 lies in the center of an hourglass shaped nebula much like the one that surrounds the last bright supernova visible from Earth: SN1987a. Now the hourglass shaped rings around SN1987a were emitted before that blue supergiant exploded. Maybe Sher 25 has expelled these bipolar rings in a step that closely precedes a supernova. If so, Sher 25 may be within a few thousand years of its spectacular finale.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2001 October 26 - Elements in the Aftermath
Explanation: Massive stars spend their brief lives furiously burning nuclear fuel. Through fusion at extreme temperatures and densities surrounding the stellar core, nuclei of light elements like Hydrogen and Helium are combined to heavier elements like Carbon, Oxygen, etc. in a progression which ends with Iron. And so a supernova explosion, a massive star's inevitable and spectacular demise, blasts back into space debris enriched in heavier elements to be incorporated into other stars and planets (and people!). This detailed false-color x-ray image from the orbiting Chandra Observatory shows such a hot, expanding stellar debris cloud about 36 light-years across. Cataloged as G292.0+1.8, this young supernova remnant in the southern constellation Centaurus resulted from a massive star which exploded an estimated 1,600 years ago. Bluish colors highlight filaments of the mulitmillion degree gas which are exceptionally rich in Oxygen, Neon, and Magnesium. Just below and left of center, a point like object in the Chandra image suggests that the enriching supernova also produced a pulsar in its aftermath, a rotating neutron star remnant of the collapsed stellar core.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2001 June 23 - The Cygnus Loop
Explanation: The shockwave from a 20,000 year-old supernova explosion in the constellation of Cygnus is still expanding into interstellar space. The collision of this fast moving wall of gas with a stationary cloud has heated it causing it to glow in visible as well as high energy radiation, producing the nebula known as the Cygnus Loop (NGC 6960/95). The nebula is located a mere 1,400 light-years away. The colors used here indicate emission from different kinds of atoms excited by the shock: oxygen-blue, sulfur-red, and hydrogen-green. This picture was taken with the Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2 on board the Hubble Space Telescope.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2001 April 4 - Distant Supernova, Dark Energy
Explanation: A pinpoint of light from a star that exploded over 10 billion light-years away is centered in the panel at the lower right, a cosmic snapshot of the most distant supernova. The ancient stellar detonation was detected by digitally subtracting before and after images of a faint, yellowish, elliptical galaxy included in the Hubble Space Telescope Deep Field image illustrated at the top and left. Remarkable in itself as the farthest known supernova, its measured brightness provides astounding evidence for a strange universe - one which eventually defies gravity and expands at an accelerating rate. The unseen force driving this expansion is attributed to "dark energy" and discovering the fundamental nature of dark energy has been called the challenge of this millennium.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2000 December 2 - SN 1006: Pieces of the Cosmic Ray Puzzle
Explanation: Research balloon flights conducted in 1912 by Austrian physicist Victor Hess revealed that the Earth was constantly bombarded by high energy radiation from space - which came to be called "Cosmic Rays". What are Cosmic Rays and where do they come from? They are now known to be mostly subatomic particles - predominantly protons and electrons - but their origin is a long standing mystery. After almost a century of study, this cosmic puzzle may have been at least partially solved by X-ray images and spectra from the ASCA satellite observatory. Pieced together to show the region around a star observed to go supernova in 1006 AD, the overlapping X-ray snapshots above (seen in false color) reveal the bright rims of the exploded star's still expanding blast wave. These ASCA observations showed for the first time that the energy spectrum of the bright regions is like that produced by extremely high energy electrons streaming through a magnetic field at nearly the speed of light. If (as expected) high energy protons are associated with these energetic electrons then supernova remnants like SN 1006 are sources of Hess' puzzling Cosmic Rays.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2000 November 7 - The Gum Nebula Supernova Remnant
Explanation: Because the Gum Nebula is the closest supernova remnant, it is actually hard to see. Spanning 40 degrees across the sky, the nebula is so large and faint it is easily lost in the din of a bright and complex background. The Gum Nebula, highlighted nicely in the above wide angle photograph, is so close that we are much nearer the front edge than the back edge, each measuring 450 and 1500 light years respectively. The complex nebula lies in the direction of the constellations of Puppis and Vela. Oddly, much remains unknown about the Gum Nebula, including the timing and even number of supernova explosions that formed it.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2000 May 12 - X-Ray Ring Around SN1987A
Explanation: This false-color image from the Chandra X-ray Observatory reveals a one light-year diameter ring of hot, ten million degree plasma. It is one of the most detailed X-ray images of the expanding blast wave from supernova 1987A (SN1987A). At visible wavelengths SN1987A is famous for its evolving rings, and superposed on this image are white contour lines which outline the innermost optical ring as seen by the Hubble Space Telescope. The composite picture clearly shows that the X-ray emitting shocked material lies just inside the optical ring. In fact, the X-ray emission seems to peak (whitest color) close to where the optical emission peaks (closely spaced contours), a persuasive demonstration that the optical light is produced as the blast wave plows into surrounding material. What will SN1987A look like in the future? According to a popular model, in coming years the expanding supernova blast wave should hit and light up even more material while the violent impacts send reverse shocks back towards the site of the explosion and light up the ejected stellar debris. In any event, astronomers will watch eagerly from a ringside seat as a new supernova remnant emerges.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2000 April 14 - Supernova Remnant E0102 72 from Radio to X-Ray
Explanation: Not all stars form a big Q after they explode. The shape of supernova remnant E0102-72, however, is giving astronomers a clue about how tremendous explosions disperse elements and interact with surrounded gas. The above image is a composite of three different photographs in three different types of light. Radio waves, shown in red, trace high-energy electrons spiraling around magnetic field lines in the shock wave expanding out from the detonated star. Optical light, shown in green, traces clumps of relatively cool gas that includes oxygen. X-rays, shown in blue, show relatively hot gas that has been heated to millions of degrees. This gas has been heated by an inward moving shock wave that has rebounded from a collision with existing or slower moving gas. This big Q currently measures 40 light-years across and was found in our neighboring SMC galaxy. Perhaps we would know even more if we could buy a vowel.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2000 March 12 - Supernova 1994D and the Unexpected Universe
Explanation: Far away, long ago, a star exploded. Supernova 1994D, visible as the bright spot on the lower left, occurred in the outskirts of disk galaxy NGC 4526. Supernova 1994D was not of interest for how different it was, but rather for how similar it was to other supernovae. In fact, the light emitted during the weeks after its explosion caused it to be given the familiar designation of a Type Ia supernova. If all Type 1a supernovae have the same intrinsic brightness, then the dimmer a supernova appears, the farther away it must be. By calibrating a precise brightness-distance relation, astronomers are able to estimate not only the expansion rate of the universe (parameterized by the Hubble Constant), but also the geometry of the universe we live in (parameterized by Omega and Lambda). The large number and great distances to supernovae measured over the past few years have been interpreted as indicating that we live in a previously unexpected universe.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2000 February 17 - New Shocks For Supernova 1987A
Explanation: In February of 1987, astronomers witnessed the brightest supernova of modern times - supernova 1987A in the Large Magellanic Cloud. Mysterious rings of material surrounding the expanding stellar debris were soon emitting a visible glow excited by intense light from the explosion. After fading over the intervening years, the interior ring has just been seen to sprout four new hotspots, as illustrated in these two versions of a Hubble Space Telescope image recorded on February 2nd. The abrupt appearance of the new features suggests that matter from the stellar blast wave itself has begun to slam into the ring in earnest, shock-heating the gas and producing the bright hotspots. The left-hand picture shows the glowing ring, initially excited by light from the explosion, along with the shocked hotspots. The right-hand picture has been further computer enhanced to emphasize the hotspots. The brightest spot at the right was first observed in 1997, while the four spots on the left half of the ring are new. Astronomers now eagerly anticipate a dramatic rejuvenation of the glowing ring as the bulk of the blast wave material, traveling at about 60 million kilometers per hour, continues to plow into it.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2000 February 11 - XMM-Newton First Light: X-Rays From The LMC
Explanation: Recently the European Space Agency released this and other spectacular "first light" pictures from its new orbiting x-ray observatory, christened XMM-Newton. A churning region of star birth and death in our small neighboring galaxy, the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC), this field was one of several chosen to test out XMM-Newton's x-ray imaging capabilities. The picture is a false-colour one in which low energy x-rays are translated to red, medium energy to green, and high energy to blue. Image colours therefore represent the relative million degree temperatures of the x-ray emitting regions, red being the coolest and blue the hottest. Remains of the star that exploded as Supernova 1987a appear here as the white x-ray source at the lower right, while another supernova remnant, cataloged as N157D is the brightest source at the upper left. The bluish arc (near center) also appears to be a supernova remnant whose expanding debris cloud is interacting with the LMC's local interstellar gas.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2000 February 6 - The Mysterious Rings of Supernova 1987A
Explanation: What's causing those odd rings in supernova 1987A? In 1987, the brightest supernova in recent history occurred in the Large Magellanic Clouds. At the center of the picture is an object central to the remains of the violent stellar explosion. When the Hubble Space Telescope was pointed at the supernova remnant in 1994, however, the existence of curious rings was confirmed. The origins of these rings still remains a mystery. Speculation into the cause of the rings includes beamed jets emanating from a dense star left over from the supernova, and a superposition of two stellar winds ionized by the supernova explosion. Meanwhile, astronomers have just reported the possible appearance of a new ring feature.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2000 January 3 - Cas A Supernova Remnant in X-Rays
Explanation: The complex shell of a star seen to explode 300 years ago is helping astronomers to understand how that star exploded. The above recently released image of supernova remnant Cassiopeia A (Cas A) shows unprecedented detail in three X-ray colors. The relationship between brightness, color, and position of material in the image indicates where in the star this material was just before the explosion. Bright knots on the left, for example, contain little iron, and so are hypothesized to originated from a higher layer than outer red filaments, which are iron rich. The blue region on the right is seen through absorbing dust, and so appears depleted of low-energy X-rays. It takes light ten years to cross the gas shell of the Cas A supernova remnant, which is 10,000 light-years distant. Most of the elements that make people and planets were produced in supernova explosions.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: December 16, 1999 - Supernova Remnant In M82
Explanation: This false-color radio wavelength picture of an expanding stellar debris cloud is the product of one of the largest radio astronomy experiments ever. Combining the output of 20 radio telescopes scattered around planet Earth, astronomers have produced this amazingly detailed image of a supernova remnant just over 1.5 light-years across in M82, an intense star forming galaxy 12 million light-years away. The radio astronomy technique for creating the earth-sized array of telescopes is known as VLBI (very long baseline interferometry). The individual telescopes of the array are too far apart for all their signals to be combined in "real time", so their output was recorded on magnetic tapes which were brought to a single location and correlated. This technique has produced the highest resolution astronomical observations currently possible and allows the exploration of such distant, violent galactic environments in unprecedented detail.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: December 9, 1999 - X-ray Hot Supernova Remnant in the SMC
Explanation: The Q-shaped cloud seen in this false-color X-ray image from the orbiting Chandra Observatory is big ... about 40 light-years across. It's hot too, as its X-ray glow is produced by multi-million degree gas. Cataloged as E0102-72, this cosmic Q is likely a several thousand year old supernova remnant, the result of the death explosion of a massive star. A supernova can dramatically affect its galactic environment, triggering star formation and enriching the local interstellar medium with newly synthesized elements. This supernova remnant is located about 210,000 light-years away in our neighboring galaxy, the Small Magellanic Cloud (SMC), so the detailed Chandra X-ray image is impressive - particularly as it reveals what appear to be strange spoke-like structures radiating from the remnant's center.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: November 22, 1999 - The Crab Nebula from VLT
Explanation: The Crab Nebula, filled with mysterious filaments, is the result of a star that was seen to explode in 1054 AD. This spectacular supernova explosion was recorded by Chinese and (quite probably) Anasazi Indian astronomers. The filaments are mysterious because they appear to have less mass than expelled in the original supernova and higher speed than expected from a free explosion. In the above picture taken recently from a Very Large Telescope, the color indicates what is happening to the electrons in different parts of the Crab Nebula. Red indicates the electrons are recombining with protons to form neutral hydrogen, while blue indicates the electrons are whirling around the magnetic field of the inner nebula. In the nebula's very center lies a pulsar: a neutron star rotating, in this case, 30 times a second.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: September 13, 1999 - Supernova Remnant N132D in X Rays
Explanation: Thousands of years after a star explodes, an expanding remnant may still glow brightly. Such is the case with N132D, a supernova remnant located in the neighboring Large Magellanic Cloud galaxy. The expanding shell from this explosion now spans 80 light-years and has swept up about 600 Suns worth of mass. The bright regions surrounding the lower right of this X-ray image result from a collision with an even more massive molecular cloud. Towards the upper left, the supernova remnant expands more rapidly into less dense region of space. This image is one of the first ever taken with the High Resolution Camera onboard the orbiting Chandra X-ray Observatory, and records details being analyzed for the first time.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: August 3, 1999 - The Vela Supernova Remnant Expands
Explanation: The explosion is over but the consequences continue. About eleven thousand years ago a star in the constellation of Vela exploded, creating a strange point of light briefly visible to humans living near the beginning of recorded history. The outer layers of the star crashed into the interstellar medium, driving a shock wave that is still visible today. Different colors in the complex, right moving shock, pictured on the left, represent different energies of impact of the shock front. The star on the left appears by chance in the foreground, and the long diagonal line is also unrelated. Remaining at the center of the Vela Supernova Remnant is a pulsar, a star as dense as nuclear matter that completely rotates more than ten times in a single second.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: July 25, 1999 - The Cygnus Loop
Explanation: The shockwave from a 20,000 year-old supernova in the constellation of Cygnus supernova explosion is still expanding into interstellar space. The collision of this fast moving wall of gas with a stationary cloud has heated it causing it to glow in visible as well as high energy radiation, producing the nebula known as the Cygnus Loop (NGC 6960/95). The nebula is located about 2500 light-years away. The colors used here indicate emission from different kinds of atoms excited by the shock: oxygen-blue, sulfur-red, and hydrogen-green. This picture was taken with the Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2 on board the Hubble Space Telescope.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: July 21, 1999 - Galactic Supernova Remnant IC 443
Explanation: About 8000 years ago, a star in our Galaxy exploded. Ancient humans might have noticed the supernova as a temporary star, but modern humans can see the expanding shell of gas even today. In the above false-color infrared image of supernova remnant IC 443, blue denotes expanding gas where emission is dominated by excited iron atoms. Of particular interest, though, are the wisps of IC 443 colored red, as they are impacting an otherwise normal molecular cloud. Here emission from shock-excited molecular hydrogen is allowing astronomers to study how fast moving supernova gas affects star formation in the cloud. Additionally, astronomers theorize that the impact accelerates some particles to velocities near the speed of light. The horizontal line across the image is not part of the nebula.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: April 13, 1999 - The Case of the Missing Supernova
Explanation: Would you notice a second Moon in the sky? About 700 years ago, light from a tremendous explosion reached Earth that should have appeared almost as bright as a full Moon. The bright spot should have lasted for weeks, yet no notation of such an occurrence has been found in historical records. The mystery was uncovered by Wan Chen and Neil Gehrels (NASA/GSFC) when studying the source of radioactive elements toward the Vela supernova remnant. They deduced that an explosion much younger and closer than the supernova that caused Vela must have occurred, and even computed explosion characteristics from the amounts of radioactive elements present. They calculate that GRO/RX J0852 should have dazzled medieval stargazers. Perhaps people were too busy, surviving records are too incomplete, or the explosion was somehow too dim. The above picture of GRO/RX J0852 was taken in gamma-ray light with the Compton Gamma-Ray Observatory and is shown in false-color. Astronomers and historians continue to contemplate the clues.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: March 7, 1999 - Tychos Supernova Remnant in X ray
Explanation: How often do stars explode? By looking at external galaxies, astronomers can guess that these events, known as a supernovae, should occur about once every 30 years in a typical spiral galaxy like our MilkyWay. However, the obscuring gas and dust in the disk of our galaxy probably prevents us from seeing many galactic supernovae -- making observations of these events in our own galaxy relatively rare. In fact, in 1572, the revered Danish astronomer, Tycho Brahe, witnessed one of the last to be seen. The remnant of this explosion is still visible today as the shockwave it generated continues to expand into the gas and dust between the stars.Above is an image of the X-rays emitted by this shockwave made by a telescope onboard the ROSAT spacecraft. The nebula is known as Tycho's Supernova Remnant.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: February 9, 1999 - A Supernova Starfield
Explanation: Bright stars don't last forever. A bright star similar to others in this field exploded in a spectacular supernova that was witnessed on Earth in 1987. The result is visible even today as unusual rings and glowing gas. The above picture is a composite of recent images taken over several years. The explosion originated from a bright massive star that ran out of nuclear fuel. SN1987A occurred in the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC), a satellite galaxy only 150,000 light years from our Milky Way Galaxy. The rings of SN1987A are currently excited by light from the initial explosion. Astronomers expect the inner ring to brighten in the next few years as expanding supernova debris overtakes it.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: December 30, 1998 - Supernova 1994D and the Unexpected Universe
Explanation: Far away, long ago, a star exploded. Supernova 1994D, visible as the bright spot on the lower left, occurred in the outskirts of disk galaxy NGC 4526. Supernova 1994D was not of interest for how different it was, but rather for how similar it was to other supernovae. In fact, the light emitted during the weeks after its explosion caused it to be given the familiar designation of a Type Ia supernova. If all Type 1a supernovae have the same intrinsic brightness, then the dimmer a supernova appears, the farther away it must be. By calibrating a precise brightness-distance relation, astronomers are able to estimate not only the expansion rate of the universe (parameterized by the Hubble Constant), but also the geometry of the universe we live in (parameterized by Omega and Lambda). The large number and great distances to supernovae measured in 1998 have been interpreted as indicating that we live in a previously unexpected universe.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: June 18, 1998 - Cosmic Rays and Supernova Dust
Explanation: Cosmic Rays are celestial high energy particles traveling at nearly the speed of light, which constantly bombard the Earth. Discovered during high altitude balloon flights in 1912 their source has been a long standing mystery. But a recent theory suggests that cosmic ray particles are atomic nuclei blasted from dust grains formed in supernovae, the death explosions of massive stars. This artist's illustration shows a supernova explosion (at left) and a conical section of the expanding cloud of ejected material. Atoms are torn from the brownish bands of "dust" material by shock waves (represented by orange rings). The shocks in the expanding blast wave then accelerate the atoms to near light speeds firing them into interstellar space like cosmic bullets. The theory is supported by observations indicating that high velocity dust was formed in the nearby supernova 1987A, and that Beryllium, a light element created in Cosmic Ray collisions, is found equally in both old an young stars. NASA's Advanced Composition Explorer (ACE) satellite can also test details of the theory by directly measuring Cosmic Rays.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: May 8, 1998 - A Gamma Ray Burst Supernova
Explanation: Did a gamma-ray burst precede this supernova? This intriguing suggestion came to light yesterday with the discovery of an evolving supernova that is potentially coincident with the position of gamma-ray burst GRB 980425, which occurred just two weeks ago. If true, this would tie together the two most violent phenomena known in the universe. The supernova, indicated by the arrow, appears to be somewhat unusual, for one reason because of its extremely bright radio emission. The host galaxy has a redshift of 0.0085, placing it at the relatively close distance of about 125 million light years away. Today it remains undetermined whether the two events are related - perhaps the evolution of the supernova over the next few weeks will provide some clues.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: April 25, 1998 - Supernova Remnant and Neutron Star
Explanation: A massive star ends life as a supernova, blasting its outer layers back to interstellar space. The spectacular death explosion is initiated by the collapse of what has become an impossibly dense stellar core. However, this core is not necessarily destroyed. Instead, it may be transformed into an exotic object with the density of an atomic nucleus but more total mass than the sun - a neutron star. A neutron star is hard to detect directly because it is small (roughly 10 miles in diameter) and therefore dim, but newly formed in this violent crucible it is intensely hot, glowing in X-rays. These X-ray images from the orbiting ROSAT observatory may offer a premier view of such a recently formed neutron stars' X-ray glow. Pictured is the supernova remnant Puppis A, one of the brightest sources in the X-ray sky, with shocked gas clouds still expanding and radiating X-rays. In the inset close-up view, a faint pinpoint source of X-rays is visible which is most likely the young neutron star, kicked out by the asymmetric explosion and moving away from the site of the original supernova at about 600 miles per second.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: February 17, 1998 - Shocked by Supernova 1987a
Explanation: Eleven years ago the brightest supernova of modern times was recorded. Now the expanding debris from this tremendous stellar explosion is seen to be crashing into previously expelled material. The onset of this collision is shown by the arrow in the above picture as the yellow spot on the interior of the ring. Although the collision is occurring at speeds near 60 million km/hour, it will appear to take years due to the vast distances involved. As the supernova blast wave moves out, it shock-heats any gas it encounters, causing it to glow. Astronomers are thus hopeful that the blast wave will illuminate the interesting past of SN 1987a, and perhaps provide more clues about the origins of the mysterious rings.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: February 11, 1998 - Ultra Fast Pulsar
Explanation: Pulsars are rotating neutron stars, born in the violent crucibles of supernova explosions. Like cosmic lighthouses, beams of radiation from surface hotspots sweep past our viewpoint creating pulses which reveal the rotation rates of these incredibly dense stellar corpses. The most famous pulsar of all is found in the nearby supernova remnant, the Crab Nebula. The Crab's young pulsar is fast. Rotating at 33 times a second, its radiation energizes the surrounding gaseous stellar debris. But using archival observations from orbiting X-ray telescopes, astronomers have recently identified another "Crab-like" pulsar that is even faster. Located in the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC), X-ray pulses from this newly discovered pulsar, in the supernova remnant N157B, indicate an even faster rotation rate - 62 times a second - making it the fastest known pulsar associated with a supernova remnant. This contoured, false color X-ray image of a portion of the LMC shows the location of N157B along with the core of the nearby hot star cluster R136, and the site of another Crab-like pulsar in SNR 0540-69.3 (rotating a mere 20 times a second). The image is about 1,500 light-years across.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: February 8, 1998 - M1: Filaments of the Crab Nebula
Explanation: The Crab Nebula, filled with mysterious filaments, is the result of a star that exploded in 1054 AD. This spectacular supernova explosion was recorded by Chinese and (quite probably) Anasazi Indian astronomers. The filaments are mysterious because they appear to have less mass than expelled in the original supernova and higher speed than expected from a free explosion. In the above picture, the color indicates what is happening to the electrons in different parts of the Crab Nebula. Red indicates the electrons are recombining with protons to form neutral hydrogen, while green indicates the electrons are whirling around the magnetic field of the inner nebula. In the nebula's very center lies a pulsar: a neutron star rotating, in this case, 30 times a second.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: October 24, 1997 - Moving Echoes Around SN 1987A
Explanation: Yesterday's image highlighted reflective rings of light emitted by a supernova explosion. Today's pictures, taken over a year apart, highlight how these echoes are seen to move over time. Visible on the left of each picture is part of a reflective ring, an existing dust cloud momentarily illuminated by the light of Supernova 1987A. Note how the nebulosity reflecting the most light occurs farther to the left in the lower photograph. If you look closely, you can see the actual location of SN 1987A itself on the right of each photograph: it appears in the center of a small yellowish ring. The apparent motion and brightness of these echoes help astronomers understand the abundance and distribution of interstellar nebulae in the LMC galaxy, where the stellar explosion occurred.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: October 23, 1997 - Echoes of Supernova 1987A
Explanation: Can you find Supernova 1987a? It's not hard - it occurred in the center of the bulls-eye pattern. Although this stellar detonation was seen more than a decade ago, light from it continues to bounce off nearby interstellar dust and be reflected to us. These two rings are thus echoes of the powerful supernova. As time goes on, these echoes appear to expand outward from the center. The above image was created by subtracting a picture taken before 1987, from a picture taken after.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: October 2, 1997 - Colliding Supernova Remnants
Explanation: When a massive star exhausts its nuclear fuel it explodes. This stellar detonation, a supernova, propels vast amounts of starstuff outwards, initially at millions of miles per hour. For another 100,000 years or so the expanding supernova remnant gradually slows as it sweeps up material and ultimately merges with the gas and dust of interstellar space. Short lived by cosmic standards, these stellar debris clouds are relatively rare and valuable objects for astronomers exploring the life cycles of stars. Yet this double bubble-shaped nebula 160,000 light-years away in the Large Magellanic Cloud may represent something rarer still - the collision of two supernova remnants. This image in the light of excited Hydrogen atoms along with images at X-Ray, radio and other optical wavelengths, suggests that the bubbles are indeed two separate regions of hot gas surrounded by cooler dense shells begining to interact as they expand and make contact.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: August 12, 1997 - Sher 25: A Pending Supernova?
Explanation: No supernova has ever been predicted - yet. These dramatic stellar explosions that destroy stars, that create and disperse the elements that compose people and planets, that light up the night sky, are not so well understood that astronomers can accurately predict when a star will explode - yet. Perhaps Sher 25 will be the first. Sher 25, designated by the arrow, is a blue supergiant star located just outside the open star cluster and ionized region named NGC 3603. Sher 25 lies in the center of an hourglass shaped nebula much like the one that surrounds the last bright supernova visible from Earth: SN1987a. Now the hourglass shaped rings around SN1987a were emitted before that blue supergiant exploded. Maybe Sher 25 has expelled these bipolar rings in a step that closely precedes a supernova. Maybe not. If so, Sher 25 may be within a few thousand years of its spectacular finale.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: July 13, 1997 - Vela Supernova Remnant in Optical
Explanation: About 11,000 years ago a star in the constellation of Vela exploded. This bright supernova may have been visible to the first human farmers. Today the Vela supernova remnant marks the position of a relatively close and recent explosion in our Galaxy. A roughly spherical, expanding shock wave is visible in X-rays. In the above optical photograph, the upper left corner of the spherical blast wave is shown in detail. As gas flies away from the detonated star, it reacts with the interstellar medium, knocking away closely held electrons from even heavy elements. When the electrons recombine with these atoms, light in many different colors and energy bands is produced.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: January 24, 1997 - Supernova 1987a Fireball Resolved
Explanation: Ten years ago the most notable supernova of modern times was observed. In February 1987, light reached Earth from a star which exploded in the nearby Large Magellanic Cloud galaxy. Supernova 1987a remains the closest supernova since the invention of the telescope. The explosion catapulted a tremendous amount of gas, light, and neutrinos into interstellar space. When observed by the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) in 1994, large strange rings were discovered whose origin is still mysterious, although thought to have been expelled even before the main explosion. More recent HST observations shown in the inset, however, have uncovered something actually predicted: the expanding fireball from the exploding star. The above high resolution images resolve two blobs flung out from the central explosion.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: November 14, 1996 - Supernova Remnant and Neutron Star
Explanation: A massive star ends life as a supernova, blasting its outer layers back to interstellar space. The spectacular death explosion is initiated by the collapse of what has become an impossibly dense stellar core. However, this core is not necessarily destroyed. Instead, it may be transformed into an exotic object with the density of an atomic nucleus but more total mass than the sun - a neutron star. Directly viewing a neutron star is difficult because it is small (roughly 10 miles in diameter) and therefore dim, but newly formed in this violent crucible it is intensely hot, glowing in X-rays. Images from the ROSAT X-ray observatory above may offer a premier view of such a recently formed neutron stars' X-ray glow. Pictured is the supernova remnant Puppis A, one of the brightest sources in the X-ray sky, with shocked gas clouds still expanding and radiating X-rays. In the inset close-up view, a faint pinpoint source of X-rays is visible which is most likely the young neutron star, kicked out by the asymmetric explosion and moving away from the site of the original supernova at about 600 miles per second.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: July 5, 1996 - The Mysterious Rings of Supernova 1987a
Explanation: What's causing those odd rings in supernova 1987a? In 1987, the brightest supernova in recent history occurred in the Large Magellanic Clouds. At the center of the picture is an object central to the remains of the violent stellar explosion. When the Hubble Space Telescope was pointed at the supernova remnant in 1994, however, curious rings were discovered. The origins of these rings still remains a mystery. Speculation into the cause of the rings includes beamed jets emanating from a dense star left over from the supernova, and a superposition of two stellar winds ionized by the supernova explosion.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: June 23, 1996 - Tycho's Supernova Remnant in X-ray
Explanation: How often do stars explode? By looking at external galaxies, astronomers can guess that these events, known as a supernovae, should occur about once every 30 years in a typical spiral galaxy like our MilkyWay. However, the obscuring gas and dust in the disk of our galaxy probably prevents us from seeing many galactic supernovae -- making observations of these events in our own galaxy relatively rare. In fact, in 1572, the revered Danish astronomer, Tycho Brahe, witnessed one of the last to be seen. The remnant of this explosion is still visible today as the shockwave it generated continues to expand into the gas and dust between the stars. Above is an image of the X-rays emitted by this shockwave made by a telescope onboard the ROSAT spacecraft. The nebula is known as Tycho's Supernova Remnant.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: June 13, 1996 - Vela Supernova Remnant in Optical
Explanation: About 11,000 years ago a star in the constellation of Vela exploded. This bright supernova may have been visible to the first human farmers. Today the Vela supernova remnant marks the position of a relatively close and recent explosion in our Galaxy. A roughly spherical, expanding shock wave is visible in X-rays. In the above optical photograph, the upper left corner of the spherical blast wave is shown in detail. As gas flies away from the detonated star, it reacts with the interstellar medium, knocking away closely held electrons from even heavy elements. When the electrons recombine with these atoms, light in many different colors and energy bands is produced.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: June 12, 1996 - Vela Supernova Remnant in X-ray
Explanation: What happens when a star explodes? A huge fireball of hot gas shoots out in all directions. When this gas slams into the existing interstellar medium, it heats up so much it glows in X-rays. The above picture by the ROSAT satellite has captured some of these X-rays and shown -- for the first time -- the Vela supernova explosion was roughly spherical. Non-uniformity of the interstellar medium causes Vela's appearance to be irregular. The size of this X-ray emitting spherical shell is immense - 230 light years across, covering over 100 times the sky-area of the full Moon. The supernova that created this nebula occurred about 1500 light years away and about 11,000 years ago. Coincidently, a completely different supernova shell can also be seen in X-rays in this picture! It is visible as the bright patch near the upper right. This Puppis supernova remnant nebula is actually about four times farther than the Vela nebula.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: May 9, 1996 - Supernova Remnant: Cooking Elements In The LMC
Explanation: Massive stars cook elements in their cores through nuclear fusion. Starting with the light elements of hydrogen and helium, their central temperatures and pressures produce progressively heavier elements, carbon, oxygen, nitrogen, etc. up through iron. At the end of their lives they explode in a spectacular supernova, scattering these elements into space, contributing material to the formation of other stars and star systems. In fact, the elements making up life on Earth were baked in such a stellar oven! This Hubble Space Telescope image of a supernova remnant known as N132D in the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) allows astronomers to explore the details of this nuclear processing and mixing. It reveals luminous clouds of cooked supernova debris energized by shocks -- singly ionized sulfur appears red, doubly ionized oxygen, green, and singly ionized oxygen, blue. The region shown above is about 50 lightyears across.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: April 21, 1996 - A Supernova in the Whirlpool
Explanation: In 1994, a new star in a distant galaxy was seen by amateur astronomers, who alerted the world to their discovery of a supernova. Near the nucleus of spiral galaxy M51, popularly known as the Whirlpool, this supernova (1994I) is identified as the bright spot indicated by the arrow in the lower left of this Hubble Space Telescope image. Supernovae are violent death explosions of stars that eject radioactive debri clouds. They are often discovered by amateur observers dedicated to systematic searches of the sky and are of intense interest to astronomers who hope to learn what kind of stars generate these explosions and what chemical elements are produced and mixed into space. Distances to these these intrinsically bright events can also be determined, providing crucial yardsticks for measuring the Scale of the Universe.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: December 3, 1995 - An X-ray Hot Supernova in M81
Explanation: In 1993, a star in the galaxy M81 exploded. Above is a picture of the hot material ejected by this supernova explosion. The picture was taken in X-rays with the Advanced Satellite for Cosmology and Astrophysics (ASCA). Since M81 is a relatively nearby galaxy, it can be examined in close detail by observatories on or near the Earth. Since the Earth's atmosphere protects the surface from interstellar X-radiation, the above photo was taken from space. Studying the nature and distribution of the X-rays has allowed astronomers to determine the composition and temperature of the expanding supernova gas.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: October 27, 1995 - The Tarantula and the Supernova
Explanation: In this close-up of the Large Magellanic Cloud, the spidery looking nebula on the left is fittingly known as as the Tarantula nebula. It is an emission nebula surrounding a cluster of hot, young stars called the 30 Doradus super cluster. This cluster may contain the most massive stars known (about 50 times the mass of the Sun). Such massive stars put out more than 100 times as much energy as our Sun. The bright "star" (lower right) is actually Supernova 1987a and is a harbinger of things to come for the stars within the Tarantula. Massive stars burn their nuclear fuel at drastically enhanced rates to support their high energy output. As a result their lives last only a few million years compared to the Sun's few billions of years. They end in a spectacular death explosion, a supernova, like the star which exploded in 1987 as seen above. Supernovae may leave behind imploded stellar cores which form neutron stars or black holes.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: July 18, 1995 - Cygnus Loop Supernova Shockwave
Explanation: 15,000 years ago a star in the constellation of Cygnus exploded. This picture shows a portion of a shockwave from this supernova explosion still expanding past nearby stars. The collision of this gaseous shockwave with a stationary gas cloud has heated the gas causing it to glow in a spectacular array of colors, known as the Cygnus Loop. This picture was taken with the Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2 on board the Hubble Space Telescope.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: June 21, 1995 - Supernova 1987a Aftermath
Explanation: In 1987 a star in one of the Milky Way's satellite galaxies exploded. In 1994 the Hubble Space Telescope, in orbit around the earth, took a very detailed picture of the remnants of this explosion. This picture, above, showed unusual and unexpected rings, and astronomers are not sure how they formed.


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