Release 36 of 47

Hubble Reveals Invisible High-Speed Collision around Supernova 1987A

Release date: Jun 9, 1997 12:45 PM (EDT)
Release type: American Astronomical Society Meeting

The highest velocity material expelled in a cataclysmic, stellar explosion 10 years ago has been detected for the first time by the Hubble telescope's imaging spectrograph.

The top image, taken with Hubble's visible-light camera, shows the orange-red rings surrounding Supernova 1987A in the Large Magellanic Cloud. The glowing debris of the supernova explosion, which occurred in February 1987, is at the center of the inner ring. The small, white square indicates the location of the imaging spectrograph aperture. The Hubble data in the middle panel [and a schematic representation in the bottom panel] shows the presence of glowing hydrogen expanding at a speed of 33 million mph (15,000 kilometers per second) coming from an extended area inside the inner ring.