This image from the Hubble's Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (STIS) shows a new and unprecedented look at the light-year wide ring of glowing gas around supernova 1987A, the nearest stellar explosion in 400 years, which occurred in February 1987.
The STIS long-slit spectrograph viewed the entire ring system, dissecting its light and producing a detailed image of the ring in each of its component colors. This image shows the ring in the optical light of hydrogen (center) flanked by images in nitrogen emission.
The arrow points to a streak produced by gas rushing toward us at 200 miles per sec. This is the same place where the bright knot is seen in Hubble's WFPC-2 images. This is the first hint that the collision between the high-speed supernova debris and gases in the glowing ring has begun.
Supernova 1987A is located 167,000 light years away from Earth in the Large Magellanic Cloud.
Credit: George Sonneborn and Jason Pun (NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center)