July 3, 2003: Resembling the puffs of smoke and sparks from a summer fireworks display in this image from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, these delicate filaments are actually sheets of debris from a stellar explosion in a neighboring galaxy. Hubble's target was a supernova remnant, denoted LMC N 49, within the Large Magellanic Cloud, a nearby, small companion galaxy to the Milky Way visible from the southern hemisphere. This filamentary material will eventually be recycled into building new generations of stars in the LMC. Our own Sun and planets are constructed from similar debris of supernovae that exploded in the Milky Way billions of years ago.
The Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) supernova remnant N 49 as seen in this Hubble image is only a few thousand years old. However, the Earth's distance to the LMC is 160,000 light-years, meaning that it takes 160,000 years for the light from the LMC to reach Earth. Although the remnant is from a massive star that died in a supernova blast thousands of years ago, by our Earth calendars the blast actually occurred over 160,000 years ago.