One of the universe’s most iconic supernovae has been observed by the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) to reveal its structure in unprecedented detail.
SN 1987A is a supernova in the Large Magellanic Cloud. SN 1987A was first detected in 1987 at a distance of about 168,000 light-years from Earth, and was the closest stellar explosion observed since Kepler’s supernova was discovered in 1604. Since then, the SN 1987A wreckage has remained a popular research target for astronomers.
“It’s so close that it can be seen with a variety of ground-based telescopes, which was actually very important for astronomers,” he says. Mikako Matsuura at Cardiff University, UK.
Matsuura and his colleagues used the JWST to make observations that provided new insights into the structure and evolution of supernovae. JWST uses infrared, so the colors in the image above are different than what you see with the naked eye.
The bluish area in the center of the image represents dense clumps of gas and dust expelled by cosmic explosions.
It is surrounded by a red crescent-like structure, a previously unseen feature of a supernova remnant.The crescent moon is probably an outer layer of gas erupting from a supernova, and it could possibly be made Mr. Matsuura says that the amount of hydrogen has increased.
A dazzling ring of matter surrounds the blue region and the crescent moon. It arises from material extruded by the original star in the approximately 20,000 years leading up to the supernova explosion. The brightest spot indicates an energetic collision between the material in the ring and the shock wave resulting from the explosion.
Neutron stars usually form after supernova explosions, but those of SN 1987A remain elusive. “There is a lot of gas at the heart of the system,” says Matsuura. “Dust particles absorb light from neutron stars, which is probably why we haven’t caught any light yet.”
These images are some of the most detailed images of a supernova ever captured, Matsuura said, and he hopes JWST will continue to monitor SN 1987A. “This is a very interesting object to observe how supernovae evolve over time,” she says.
- james webb space telescope/