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Hubble captures a dazzling snapshot of the result of a stellar explosion

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The Hubble Space Telescope recorded an image of the result of the ‘death’ of a star that took place thousands of years ago.

The snapshot, recently shared by the European Space Agency (ESA), shows what appears to be “a delicate and light veil across the sky.” It is actually a small part of the shock wave caused by a supernova.

A supernova is a massive stellar explosion that produces intense flashes of light in the sky that can even be seen with the naked eye in some cases.

The nebulous structure recorded by Hubble is what is known as the supernova remnant — SNR, the result of the explosion of a star. In this case, it is the Cygnus Loop, located about 2,400 light-years away.

A part of the Cygnus Loop, recorded by the Hubble Space Telescope
A part of the Cygnus Loop, recorded by the Hubble Space Telescope. © PHOTO: ESA / HUBBLE & NASA, W. BLAIR

The name of this SNR comes from its position in the northern constellation Cygnus, also known as the Swan, where it occupies an area 36 times larger than the Moon.

The star, whose explosion generated the Cygnus Loop, had a mass about 20 times of our Sun.

The supernova occurred between 10,000 and 20,000 years ago, and its remnant has since expanded 60 light-years from its center. According to ESA, the Cygnus Loop continues to expand at about 350 kilometres per second.

The interaction of the material ejected in the explosion and the low-density interstellar material carried by the supernova shock wave is what gives rise to this veil-like structure seen in the Hubble image.

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