Categories: Hubblesupernova

Hubble’s Photo of the Cygnus Loop is, Of Course, Incredible

If you’re a Star Trek fan, you may think the above image portrays the “Nexus” from the movie Star Trek: Generations. In the film, the Nexus was a ribbon-like extra-dimensional realm that exists outside of normal space-time.

But this is actually a real image from the venerable Hubble Space Telescope, of the Cygnus Loop. This stunning picture from space shows just a small portion of a blast wave left over from a supernova that took place, from our vantage point, in the northern constellation Cygnus the Swan.  

The original supernova explosion blasted apart a dying star about 2,600 light-years away. This star was approximately 20 times more massive than our Sun, and the blast likely occurred between 10,000 to 20,000 years ago. Since then, the remnant has expanded 60 light-years from its center.

While appearing as a delicate and light veil draped across the sky, this image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope actually depicts a small section of the Cygnus supernova blast wave, located around 2600 light-years away. Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA, W. Blair.

The shockwave marks the outer edge of the supernova remnant and continues to expand at incredible speeds, around 350 kilometers per second. The interaction of the ejected material and the low-density interstellar material swept up by the shockwave forms the distinctive veil-like structure seen in this image.

In Star Trek lore, if you were inside the Nexus, you existed in a perfect, idealized world. Staring at an incredible image like this makes you consider that something like that might just be possible.

Here’s another, previous Hubble image of the Cygnus Loop supernova remnant from 1991, and below that is an image of the famous Veil Nebula, which is inside the larger Cygnus supernova remnant.

This 1991 image from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope captures a small section of the Cygnus Loop supernova remnant. Credit: NASA/Hubble
Veil Nebula. Image credit: ESA/Hubble Space Telescope

Source: ESA

Nancy Atkinson

Nancy has been with Universe Today since 2004, and has published over 6,000 articles on space exploration, astronomy, science and technology. She is the author of two books: "Eight Years to the Moon: the History of the Apollo Missions," (2019) which shares the stories of 60 engineers and scientists who worked behind the scenes to make landing on the Moon possible; and "Incredible Stories from Space: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Missions Changing Our View of the Cosmos" (2016) tells the stories of those who work on NASA's robotic missions to explore the Solar System and beyond. Follow Nancy on Twitter at https://twitter.com/Nancy_A and and Instagram at and https://www.instagram.com/nancyatkinson_ut/

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