Supernova 1987A Ring Blazes Back to Life
[Left] – This NASA Hubble Space Telescope Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2 image shows the glowing gas ring around supernova 1987A, as seen on February 2, 2000. The gas, excited by light from the explosion, has been fading for a decade, but parts of it are now being heated by the collision of an invisible shockwave from the supernova explosion.
[Right] – Image processing is used to emphasize four new bright knots of superheated gas discovered in the February 2 Hubble observations. The brightest knot, at the far right, was seen in 1997. Astronomers have been waiting several years to see more of the ring light-up as the supernova shockwave smashes into it. This is the first definitive sign of the full onset of a dramatic and violent collision which will continue over the next few years, rejuvenating SN1987A as a powerful source of X-ray and radio emissions.
Both images were made in visual light. Computer image processing techniques were used to enhance details in the ring.
NASA, Peter Challis and Robert Kirshner (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics), Peter Garnavich (University of Notre Dame), and the SINS Collaboration