ESO’s VLT provides first 3-D image of supernova remnant

As the BBC notes, having already observed the most massive star ever discovered ESO’s Very Large Telescope array [VLT] in Chile has now provided the first 3-D image of a supernova remnant.  The first video is an artist’s impression of the material around recently exploded star, known as Supernova 1987A [SN 1987A]. Credit ESO/L. Calçada.

From the ESO press release

Unlike the Sun, which will die rather quietly, massive stars arriving at the end of their brief life explode as supernovae, hurling out a vast quantity of material. In this class, Supernova 1987A (SN 1987A) in the rather nearby Large Magellanic Cloud occupies a very special place. Seen in 1987, it was the first naked-eye supernova to be observed for 383 years (eso8704), and because of its relative closeness, it has made it possible for astronomers to study the explosion of a massive star and its aftermath in more detail than ever before. It is thus no surprise that few events in modern astronomy have been met with such an enthusiastic response by scientists.

SN 1987A has been a bonanza for astrophysicists (eso8711 and eso0708). It provided several notable observational ‘firsts’, like the detection of neutrinos from the collapsing inner stellar core triggering the explosion, the localisation on archival photographic plates of the star before it exploded, the signs of an asymmetric explosion, the direct observation of the radioactive elements produced during the blast, observation of the formation of dust in the supernova, as well as the detection of circumstellar and interstellar material (eso0708).

New observations making use of a unique instrument, SINFONI [1], on ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) have provided even deeper knowledge of this amazing event, as astronomers have now been able to obtain the first-ever 3D reconstruction of the central parts of the exploding material.

The second video zooms into images of SN 1987A as seen with ESO telescopes, and finally fades into an artist’s impression that shows the different elements present in SN 1987A: two outer rings, one inner ring and the deformed, innermost expelled material. Credit ESO.

, , , , , , , , ,

  • SN 1987A has been a bonanza for astrophysicists (eso8711 and eso0708).

    I think you’ve mistyped those two links.

  • Pete Baker

    Thanks Andrew.

    It was an error caused by the automated process of copying and pasting.

    I’ll fix it now.

  • joeCanuck

    Remarkably similar to the Hourglass Nebula; presumably similar events when they “exploded”.

  • Greenflag

    ‘Unlike the Sun, which will die rather quietly,’

    A comforting thought eh – I trust nothing imminent ? Those extra large solar flares that struck the earth this week were noteworthy .

  • Another few billion years of life left in the old girl, so I wouldn’t pack my bags yet. I’d still want to be in the next system when she goes though. “Quietly” is a relative term, after all.

  • Greenflag

    As I understand it when she goes old Sol will first expand into a Red Giant incinerating the inner planets including Earth and Mars and will then shrink back to a brown or white dwarf .

    And then it’ll be all quiet on the universal front .

    Perhaps by then we’ll know if we are alone in this universe assuming we do nothing terminal to the species Sapiens ? before the Sol burst . As the average life expectancy of any species is about 4 million years it’s probable that it won’t be homo sapiens who will greet the Sol burst but some distant maybe hominoid type descendant who may look upon us as we look at australopithecus africanus .

    And with that cheering thought I’m off to grab a spade and turn over the compost heap in the south east corner and pursue some happy mindless observation of squiggling worms 😉 Back to eh earth one might say .

  • joeCanuck

    We, as a species, are not going to escape to another system. NASA believes that any people sent to Mars with our present technology are more likely than not to die from radiation poison on route. They are actually funding research on trying to develop a drug that will enable the body to repair DNA damage; good luck with that considering the 100s of billions spent on cancer research with limited success.

  • Joe, you do understand the meaning of the term “present technology”?

  • joeCanuck

    Yes, I’m an engineer. I do love reading science fiction. Unfortunately, NASA is like a beached whale. No manned lift capability after next year.