What a Star About to Go Supernova Looks Like

by Nancy Atkinson on January 10, 2014

Want to stay on top of all the space news? Follow @universetoday on Twitter

SBW2007 is a nebula with a giant star at its center. All indications are that it could explode as a supernova at any time. Credit: ESA/NASA, acknowledgement: Nick Rose.

SBW2007 is a nebula with a giant star at its center. All indications are that it could explode as a supernova at any time. Credit: ESA/NASA, acknowledgement: Nick Rose.

No, this isn’t a distant view of the London Eye. This nebula with a giant star at its center is known as SBW2007, located in the Carina Nebula. Astronomers say it has striking similarities to a star that went supernova back in 1987, SN 1987A. Both stars had identical rings of the same size and age, which were travelling at similar speeds; both were located in similar HII regions; and they had the same brightness. We didn’t have the telescopic firepower back before 1987 like we do now, so we don’t have a closeup view of how SN 1987A looked before it exploded, but astonomers think SBW2007 is a snapshot of SN1987a’s appearance, pre-supernova.

Of course, no one can predict when a star will go supernova, and since SBW2007 is 20,000 light-years away, we don’t have any worries about it causing any problems here on Earth. But astronomers are certainly hoping they’ll have the chance to watch it happen.

SN 1987A is the closest supernova to that we’ve been able to study since the invention of the telescope and it has provided scientists with good opportunities to study the physical processes of an exploding star.

Below is the latest image of SN 1987A, courtesy of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory. You can read about their recent findings here, where they were able to image the newly formed dust from the explosion.

Composite image of supernova 1987A. ALMA data (in red) shows newly formed dust in the center of the remnant. HST (in green) and Chandra (in blue) show the expanding shockwave. Credit: R. Indebetouw et. al, A. Angelich (NRAO/AUI/NSF); NASA/STScI/CfA/R. Kirshner; NASA/CXC/SAO/PSU/D. Burrows et al.

Composite image of supernova 1987A. ALMA data (in red) shows newly formed dust in the center of the remnant. HST (in green) and Chandra (in blue) show the expanding shockwave. Credit: R. Indebetouw et. al, A. Angelich (NRAO/AUI/NSF); NASA/STScI/CfA/R. Kirshner; NASA/CXC/SAO/PSU/D. Burrows et al.

Source: NASA & ESA

About 

Nancy Atkinson is Universe Today's Senior Editor. She also works with Astronomy Cast, and is a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.

Ovalman January 10, 2014 at 1:09 PM

In what constellation is this star?

alan martin January 10, 2014 at 1:25 PM

From the HST observing program:
RA=10H40M19.4000S +/- 0.1″,
DEC=-59D49’9.70″ +/- 0.1″
V = 12.7

alan martin January 10, 2014 at 1:28 PM

I believe that is in Carina

alan martin January 10, 2014 at 1:31 PM

Link to preprint: The ring nebula around the blue supergiant SBW1: pre-explosion snapshot of an SN 1987A twin
http://arxiv.org/pdf/1211.4612v2.pdf

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: