A star set to explode

Floating at the centre of this new Hubble image is a lidless purple eye, staring back at us through space. This ethereal object, known officially as [SBW2007] 1 but sometimes nicknamed SBW1, is a nebula with a giant star at its centre. The star was originally twenty times more massive than our Sun, and is now encased in a swirling ring of purple gas, the remains of the distant era when it cast off its outer layers via violent pulsations and winds.

But the star is not just any star; scientists say that it is destined to go supernova! 26 years ago, another star with striking similarities went supernova — SN 1987A. Early Hubble images of SN 1987A show eerie similarities to SBW1. 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. In this way SBW1 is a snapshot of SN1987a's appearance before it exploded, and unsurprisingly, astronomers love studying them together.

At a distance of more than 20 000 light-years it will be safe to watch when the supernova goes off. If we are very lucky it may happen in our own lifetimes...

Versions of this image were entered into the Hubble's Hidden Treasures image processing competition by contestants Nick Rose and Steve Byrne.

Links

  • Paper on SBW1 by Nathan Smith et al.

Credit:

ESA/Hubble & NASA
Acknowledgements: Nick Rose/Steve Byrne

About the Image

Id:potw1401a
Type:Observation
Release date:6 January 2014, 10:00
Size:3955 x 2008 px

About the Object

Name:[SBW2007] 1
Type:• Milky Way : Star : Evolutionary Stage : Blue Supergiant
• Milky Way : Nebula : Appearance : Emission : H II Region
• X - Stars Images/Videos
Distance:25000 light years

Colours & filters

BandWavelengthTelescope
Optical
B
502 nm Hubble Space Telescope
WFC3
Optical
R
656 nm Hubble Space Telescope
WFC3
Optical
R
658 nm Hubble Space Telescope
WFC3

Image Formats

Large JPEG
5.5 MB
Screensize JPEG
161.7 KB

Zoomable


Wallpapers

1024x768
414.8 KB
1280x1024
816.0 KB
1600x1200
1.3 MB
1920x1200
1.5 MB
2048x1536
2.2 MB

Also see our