Old Supernova Remnant Similar to Florida Manatee

First Posted: Jan 21, 2013 09:43 AM EST

A 20,000-year-old supernova remnant that is being captured by the National Science Foundation's Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array radio telescope (VLA), notices that the cloud of dust and gas closely matches an endangered species, the Florida Manatee, and receives its nickname after the sea creature.

W50 was formed when the giant star that was 18,000 light years away in the constellation exploded as a supernova, sending its outer gases in an expanding bubble, forming the shape of the nebula. It swirls in clouds of green and blue around the star, which collapsed into a black hole. At nearly 700 light years across, it covers two degrees on the sky, which is the span of four full Moons.

Officially named as the W50 by the Natinal Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO), it is known for being the largest supernova remnant ever captured by the VLA.  It looks similar to the manatee, a sea creature that floats on its back with flippers resting on its belly. Apart from this, another similarity is the deep curved scars present on the manatees that are caused due to boat propellers, with even the W50 having arcs that are caused due to powerful jets.

When the VLA's giant W50 image reached the NRAO Director's office, Heidi Winter, the Director's Executive Assistant, saw the likeness to a manatee, the endangered marine mammal known as "sea cow" that congregates in warm waters in the southeastern United States, according to a statement made by NRAO.

Florida Manatees are referred to as the gentle giants. They are almost 10 feet long, and weigh around 1,000 pounds. They spend nearly eight hours a day grazing on sea plants, and the rest of the day is spent floating on their backs, resembling the image of W50.

Apart from the Manatee Nebula, we have the Crab Nebula, the Owl Nebula, the Eagle Nebula, the Horsehead Nebula and the Pelican Nebula.

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