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Supernovas & Supernova Remnants
Related Podcasts
A Tour of IGR J11014-6103
Supernova 1987A:
Twenty Years Since a Spectacular Explosion



Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/PSU/S.Park & D.Burrows.; Optical: NASA/STScI/CfA/P.Challis

February 24, 2007 marks the 20th anniversary of one of the most spectacular events observed by astronomers in modern times, Supernova 1987A. The destruction of a massive star in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a nearby galaxy, spawned detailed observations by many different telescopes, including NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and Hubble Space Telescope. The outburst was visible to the naked eye, and is the brightest known supernova in almost 400 years.

This composite image shows the effects of a powerful shock wave moving away from the explosion. Bright spots of X-ray and optical emission arise where the shock collides with structures in the surrounding gas. These structures were carved out by the wind from the destroyed star. Hot-spots in the Hubble image (pink-white) now encircle Supernova 1987A like a necklace of incandescent diamonds. The Chandra data (blue-purple) reveals multimillion-degree gas at the location of the optical hot-spots. These data give valuable insight into the behavior of the doomed star in the years before it exploded.

Fast Facts for Supernova 1987A:
Credit  X-ray: NASA/CXC/PSU/S.Park & D.Burrows.; Optical: NASA/STScI/CfA/P.Challis
Scale  Image is 12 arcmin across.
Category  Supernovas & Supernova Remnants
Coordinates (J2000)  RA 05h 35m 28.30s | Dec -69° 16' 1.10"
Constellation  Dorado
Observation Date  January 9, 2005
Observation Time  8 hours
Obs. ID  5579
Color Code  X-ray: blue-purple; Optical: pink-white
Instrument  ACIS
Also Known As Supernova 1987A
References S. A. Zhekov, R. McCRay, K. Borkowski, D. Burrows, and S. Park, Chandra Observations of Shock Kinematics in Supernova Remnant 1987A , Astrophysical Journal Letters, Volume 628, pp. L127 L130. 2005 (See also astro-ph/0506443)
Distance Estimate  About 160,000 light years
Release Date  February 22, 2007