News Release Archive:

News Release 10 of 34

September 9, 2009 11:00 AM (EDT)

News Release Number: STScI-2009-25

Hubble Opens New Eyes on the Universe


Image: Probing the Tattered Remains of Supernova Remnant N132D

Probing the Tattered Remains of Supernova Remnant N132DSTScI-PRC2009-25e

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The wispy, glowing, magenta structures in this NASA Hubble Space Telescope image are the remains of a star 10 to 15 times the mass of the Sun that we would have seen exploding as a supernova 3,000 years ago. The remnant's fast-moving gas is plowing into the surrounding gas of the galaxy, creating a supersonic shock wave in the surrounding medium and making the material glow.

The Hubble visible-light image reveals, deep within the remnant, a crescent-shaped cloud of pink emission from hydrogen gas and soft purple wisps that correspond to regions of glowing oxygen. A dense background of colorful stars is also visible.

Probing this tattered gaseous relic, the newly installed Cosmic Origins Spectrograph (COS) aboard NASA's Hubble Space Telescope detected pristine gas ejected by the doomed star that has not yet mixed with the gas in the interstellar medium. The supernova remnant, called N132D, resides in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a small companion galaxy of the Milky Way located 170,000 light-years away. The resulting spectrum, taken in ultraviolet light, shows glowing oxygen and carbon in the remnant.

These results allow astronomers to better understand why some stars form an abundance of certain elements, like oxygen, but not others.

Ultraviolet light is blocked by the Earth's atmosphere, so the observation of N132D in the ultraviolet requires the use of the space-borne Hubble telescope. The broadest range of spectral signatures of the glowing gas appear in the ultraviolet, allowing astronomers to determine the quantities, or abundances, of key elements such as oxygen, as well as elements whose abundances cannot be traced from visible-light images, including carbon, magnesium, and silicon.

Previous ultraviolet instruments on Hubble were not sensitive enough to distinguish between the unmixed ejecta and the "shocked" gas of the surrounding interstellar medium.

Supernova remnants provide a rare opportunity to search for the material hidden deep inside a star. This in turn yields information on how stars evolve and how they manufacture chemicals in their interiors. Supernova explosions also enrich the interstellar medium with new chemical elements, which are incorporated into future generations of stars.

The COS observations were made on August 10, 2009. COS was installed by NASA astronauts in May 2009, during the servicing mission to upgrade and repair the 19-year-old Hubble telescope.

The visible-light image was taken on August 2, 2009, with Hubble's new Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3). A filter that isolates emission from sulfur was combined with archival data from the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS). The ACS data include color filters that sample starlight in the blue, green, and red portions of the spectrum, as well as the pink emission from glowing hydrogen gas.

These Hubble observations of N132D are part of the Hubble Servicing Mission 4 Early Release Observations.

Object Name: N132D

Image Type: Astronomical/Illustration

Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble SM4 ERO Team

Technical facts about this image:

About this Object
Object Name: N132D (SNR J052501-693842)
Object Description: Supernova Remnant
Position (J2000): R.A. 05h 25m 01s.40
Dec. -69° 38' 31".00
Constellation: Dorado
Distance: 170,000 light-years (52,000 parsecs)
Dimensions: This image is 3 arcminutes (150 light-years or 46 parsecs) wide.
About these Data
Data Description: The Hubble images/spectrum were created from data from proposal 11503: K. Noll (STScI) and J. Green, C. Froning, and K. France (University of Colorado, Boulder); and proposal 12001: J. Green (University of Colorado, Boulder).
Exposure Date(s): August 2, 2009 August 10, 2009 January 21/22, 2004
Exposure Time: 40 minutes 2.6 hours 4.2 hours
Filters: F673N ([S II]) G130M (130nm) and G160M (160 nm) F475W(g), F550M (y), F658N (H-alpha + [N II]), and F850LP (z)
About this Image
Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble SM4 ERO Team
Release Date: September 9, 2009
Color: The image is a composite of separate exposures made by the WFC3 and ACS instruments on the Hubble Space Telescope. Five filters were used to sample broad and narrow wavelength ranges. The color results from assigning different hues (colors) to each monochromatic image. In this case, the assigned colors are:
F850LP (z) pink
F658N (H-alpha + [N II]) orange
F673N ([S II]) white
F550M (y) green
F475W(g) blue
Acknowledgments for N132D
Observers: K. Noll (STScI) and J. Green, C. Froning, and K. France (University of Colorado, Boulder)
Data Analysis: J. Anderson and M. Mutchler (STScI), and C. Froning and J. Green (University of Colorado, Boulder)
Image Composition: Z. Levay and L. Frattare (STScI)
Text: L. Frattare, D. Weaver, and R. Villard (STScI)
Illustrations: A. Feild and Z. Levay (STScI)
Video Animation: G. Bacon (STScI)
Science Consultants: M. Livio (STScI) and C. Froning and J. Green (University of Colorado, Boulder)


The above montage includes these images:

Supernova Remnant LMC N132D Image Type: Astronomical Supernova Remnant LMC N132D COS Spectrum of Supernova Remnant LMC N132D Image Type: Illustration COS Spectrum of Supernova Remnant LMC N132D

All images from this news release:

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