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News Release Archive:

News Release 189 of 218

May 19, 1994 12:00 AM (EDT)

News Release Number: STScI-1994-22

Hubble Finds Mysterious Ring Structure around Supernova 1987a

May 19, 1994: The Hubble telescope has obtained the best images yet of a mysterious mirror-imaged pair of rings of glowing gas encircling the site of the stellar explosion called supernova 1987A.

One possibility for these "hula hoops" of gas is that the two rings might be caused by a high-energy beam of radiation that is sweeping across the gas, like a searchlight sweeping across clouds. Though all of the rings appear inclined to our view (so that they appear to intersect), they are probably in three different planes. The small, bright ring lies in a plane containing the supernova; one larger ring lies in front of and the other behind the smallest one.

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Credit: Dr. Christopher Burrows, ESA/STScI and NASA