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NASA Hubble Space Telescope Reveals Stunning Veil Nebula in New Detail

First Posted: Sep 25, 2015 09:55 AM EDT
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NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has zoomed in on some shrapnel from the remains of an exploding star. It's unveiled stunning detail of a small section of these expanding remains, which came from a star that burst 8,000 years ago.

Called the Veil Nebula, the debris is one of the best-known supernova remnants, deriving its name from its delicate, draped filamentary structures. The entire nebula is about 110 light-years across, covering six full moons on the sky as seen from Earth. It can be found about 2,100 light-years away in the constellation Cygnus, the Swan.

The new picture is actually a mosaic of six Hubble pictures of a small area that's roughly two light-years across, covering only a tiny fraction of the nebula's vast structure.

The new close-up reveals wisps of gas, which are all that remain of what was once a star that was 20 times more massive than our sun. Currently, the fast-moving blast wave from the ancient explosion is plowing into a wall of cool, denser interstellar gas, emitting light. The nebula lies along the edge of a large bubble of low-density gas that was blowing into space by the dying star prior to its self-detonation.

You can see an incredible array of structures and detail from the collision between the blast wave and gas and dust that make up the cavity wall. The nebula resembles a crumpled bed sheet viewed from the side. The bright regions are where the shock wave is encountering relatively dense material or where the "bed sheet" ripples are viewed edge-on.

Currently, astronomers are comparing these new images to ones taken by Hubble in 1997. These images, in particular, should reveal a bit more about the nebula.

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