Gnarly Image Captures Decaying Corpse of Dead Star

Gnarly Image Captures Decaying Corpse of Dead Star

A ghastly echo in the void.

Eleven thousand years ago, a colossal star detonated, leaving behind a chilling reminder. Astronomers have captured an incredibly detailed view of the Vela Supernova Remnant – the haunting remains of this ancient cosmic explosion.

The image, taken by a powerful camera on the National Science Foundation's Víctor M. Blanco 4-metre telescope in the Chilean Andes, reveals a churning expanse of gas, relentlessly expanding into the cosmos.

"The Vela Supernova Remnant is all that's left of a once-mighty star," stated the NSF's NOIRLab, which operates large telescopes across the globe.

The image showcases the central portion of the stellar corpse. The vastness is staggering, with the star's gas filaments stretching outwards in wispy blue and yellow tendrils.



"The Vela Supernova Remnant is a gargantuan structure, spanning nearly 100 light-years across. In the night sky, it would appear 20 times the diameter of the full Moon," explained NOIRLab.

Capturing such detail necessitates a powerful telescope and camera. The image was taken with the Department of Energy's Dark Energy Camera, boasting a formidable near 1-metre lens.

The cosmic vista is so expansive that the labelled image identifies other celestial bodies within the frame, including a star cluster and nebulae (clouds of dust and gas). Additionally, the shockwave from the star's long-ago explosion is visible.

Stellar explosions are a vital part of the universe's grand story. Before succumbing to collapse, massive stars utilise the immense pressure at their core to fuse helium into carbon. Over millennia, they forge heavier elements, from oxygen to the iron in our blood, ultimately scattering these essential ingredients throughout space. These newly created materials become the building blocks for future solar systems and planets.

The implosion of a star can lead to the formation of various objects. Sometimes, the collapse results in a black hole – so dense and gravitationally potent that even light cannot escape its grasp. Other times, an incredibly compact object called a neutron star is born. A sugar cube-sized portion of this phenomenal material would weigh a staggering billion tonnes. The particular stellar collapse 11,000 years ago produced such a star, known as the Vela Pulsar. This small but potent object can be found in the image's bottom left corner.

Space, as ever, remains a realm of awe-inspiring violence.


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