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News Release 168 of 218

January 14, 1997 12:00 AM (EST)

News Release Number: STScI-1997-03

Supernova Blast Begins Taking Shape

An American Astronomical Society Meeting Release

January 14, 1997: Though the brightest supernova in four centuries lit up the southern sky almost exactly 10 years ago on Feb. 23, 1987, astronomers have waited a decade for the ballooning fireball to become large enough ? about one-sixth of a light-year ? to be resolved from Earth's orbit with the Hubble telescope.

Hubble's sharp "eyes" have resolved a dumbbell-shaped structure ? one-tenth of a light-year long ? that consists of two blobs of debris expanding apart at nearly 6 million mph from each other. This Hubble picture shows the supernova, designated 1987A, and its neighborhood. The four frames follow the evolution of the supernova debris.

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Credit: Chun Shing Jason Pun (NASA/GSFC), Robert P. Kirshner (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics), and NASA