Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day we feature a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

October 27, 1995

The Tarantula and the Supernova
Credit: Anglo-Australian Telescope photograph by David Malin
Copyright: Anglo-Australian Telescope Board

Explanation: In this close-up of the Large Magellanic Cloud, the spidery looking nebula on the left is fittingly known as as the Tarantula nebula. It is an Supernova 1987a and is a harbinger of things to come for the stars within the Tarantula. Massive stars burn their nuclear fuel at drastically enhanced rates to support their high energy output. As a result their lives last only a few million years compared to the Sun's few billions of years. They end in a spectacular death explosion, a supernova, like the star which exploded in 1987 as seen above. Supernovae may leave behind imploded stellar cores which form neutron stars or black holes.

Tomorrow's picture: The Delta Clipper

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Authors & editors: Robert Nemiroff (GMU) & Jerry Bonnell (USRA).
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