Recent HST obervations show a brightening knot on the upper righthand corner of this image. This is the site of the collision between the outward moving blast wave and the innermost circumstellar ring.
Click on image for full size
Image courtesy of Hubble Space Telescope
Titanic Stellar Explosion
News story originally written on March 4, 1998
Shock waves from supernova explosion collide with gas ring!! Traveling at 40 million mph, a wave of energy released in a supernova explosion observed over a decade ago has begun to collide with a ring of gas surrounding the site of the explosion.
The supernova explosion was first observed in Chile on February 23, 1987 by Canadian astronomer Ian Shelton. Although the star actually blew up in approximately 165,000 BC, the light from the explosion had just arrived at Earth. This is the closest supernova in 400 years.
The ring of gas around the explosion was formed before the star exploded. Now, the force of the explosion is reaching the inside edge of the ring. As the debris from the supernova hits the ring at extreme speeds, the temperature of the ring increases from a few thousand degrees to a million degrees Farenheit. In a few years, the entire ring should have lit up. The illuminated ring is expected to light up the surrounding space, shedding light on matter that was previously too dark to see.
Astronomers are expecting to be able to answer questions about the supernova's past, such as what type of star caused the explosion, and reveal details about the strange gas rings surrounding the supernova.
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