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NatureScience

#space#stars

A Staggering New 1.3-Gigapixel Image Shows an Enormous Star That Exploded Nearly 11,000 Years Ago

March 15, 2024

Grace Ebert

a swirling galactic image of wispy gas tendrils and a bright yellow and red cluster at the center

All images courtesy of CTIO/NOIRLab/DOE/NSF/AURA. Image processing by T.A. Rector (University of Alaska Anchorage/NSF’s NOIRLab), M. Zamani & D. de Martin (NSF’s NOIRLab)

Approximately 11,000 years ago in Vela, a constellation about 800 light-years away from Earth, a star exploded. The supernova that emerged is the subject of an enormous new composite showcasing what astronomers refer to as a “cosmic corpse” in extraordinary detail.

Zooming in on the ghostly gas tendrils and dust, the 1.3-gigapixel colorized image is the largest ever from the Dark Energy Camera at the U.S. National Science Foundation’s Víctor M. Blanco 4-meter Telescope at Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile. The exceptionally high-resolution image offers unprecedented looks at the remnants of the enormous Vela supernova, an interstellar structure stretching almost 100 light-years across with a diameter twenty times that of a full moon. It’s also one of the closest to Earth.

Astronomers released a detailed diagram along with the full image that points out specific structures within the supernova. When the star originally exploded, its outer edges were ripped off and launched outward, emitting a shockwave that appears as a bright band that cuts down the center. The stringy blue and yellow components nearby are a mix of hot gas from the shockwave and interstellar matter. Researchers explain further:

After shedding its outer layers, the core of the star collapsed into a neutron star—an ultra-dense ball consisting of protons and electrons that have been smashed together to form neutrons. The neutron star, named the Vela Pulsar, is now an ultra-condensed object with the mass of a star like the Sun contained in a sphere just a few kilometers across. Located in the lower left region of this image, the Vela Pulsar is a relatively dim star that is indistinguishable from its thousands of celestial neighbors. Still reeling from its explosive death, the Vela Pulsar spins rapidly on its own axis and possesses a powerful magnetic field.

It’s worth exploring the incredible galactic details of the full image available from NOIRlab. For more on how the Dark Energy Camera works, visit PetaPixel.

an illustration breaking down the different parts of the composite image

a star studded galactic image

Supernova remnant

a small swirling galaxy amid stars

A galaxy far, far away

#space#stars

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