The Hubble Space Telescope may have gone through a rough month this October, but it’s ready to turn things around. Earlier this week, the Inquisitr reported that the formidable spacecraft has officially resumed science operations after recovering from a gyroscope glitch that knocked it off-line for three weeks.
Launched on April 24, 1990, the iconic observatory has been circling the Earth for nearly three decades and will continue to sail the skies for years to come — thanks to the effort of the resourceful team at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.
To celebrate Hubble’s return to work, the European Space Agency (ESA) unveiled a mesmerizing photo taken by the space telescope after observing a swath of sky in the Dorado constellation (“The Swordfish”). The image showcases a stunning view of a supernova remnant called SNR0454-67.2 — the remains of a long-gone star floating through space some 163,000 light years away from Earth.
The gorgeous snapshot captures the glowing streaks of charged gas that make up the supernova remnant, photographed swirling through dust clouds on a dark sky full of dazzling stars.
As the Inquisitr previously reported, supernova remnants constitute the aftermath of a supernova explosion. They are what’s left behind when a massive star reaches the end of its life cycle, and goes out in a violent outburst. The giant explosion spills the contents of the star in the cosmos, creating a “messy formation” of “tangled” gas filaments and dust clouds, explains NASA.
In fact, this particular supernova looks so snarled and chaotic that ESA named the Hubble photo “Tangled — the cosmic edition,” in reference to the 2010 Disney animated film, one featuring Rapunzel and her long, magical tresses.
The comparison couldn’t be more apt. The streaks and filaments of the supernova remnant stretch trough the sky like sinuous locks — weaving a glistening web of red threads “snaking amidst dark, turbulent clouds,” notes NASA.
Released by ESA on November 26, the ensnaring photo was shared on Twitter earlier today by the Hubble team, which detailed how the supernova remnant came to be.
“This dark, tangled web is an object named SNR0454-67.2. It formed in a very violent fashion — it is a supernova remnant, created after a massive star ended its life in a cataclysmic explosion and threw its material out into surrounding space.”
According to NASA, SNR0454-67.2 was probably created after the death of a white dwarf star in what astronomers call a Type Ia supernova explosion. White dwarfs are small, faint stars no bigger than planet Earth — but extremely dense, packing a mass comparable to that of the sun. When these stars exist in a binary system, meaning that they have a stellar companion, they tend to siphon material from their partner. They ravenously gobble up gas until they reach critical mass — and explode.
This produces a Type Ia supernova, which always has a constant, well-known luminosity given that the critical mass of white dwarfs is always the same. Since the luminosity of a supernova primarily depends on how far away it is, astronomers often use this type of supernovae as “standard candles” to measure the distance from the dead stars to their host galaxies.