Astronomy Picture of the Day

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

May 9, 1996

Supernova Remnant: Cooking Elements In The LMC
Credit: J. Morse (STScI) and NASA

Explanation: Massive stars cook elements in their cores through nuclear fusion. Starting with the light elements of hydrogen and helium, their central temperatures and pressures produce progressively heavier elements, carbon, oxygen, nitrogen, etc. up through iron. At the end of their lives they explode in a spectacular supernova, scattering these elements into space, contributing material to the formation of other stars and star systems. In fact, the elements making up life on Earth were baked in such a stellar oven! This Hubble Space Telescope image of a supernova remnant known as N132D in the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) allows astronomers to explore the details of this nuclear processing and mixing. It reveals luminous clouds of cooked supernova debris energized by shocks -- singly ionized sulfur appears red, doubly ionized oxygen, green, and singly ionized oxygen, blue. The region shown above is about 50 lightyears across.

Tomorrow's picture: Blowing SuperBubbles in the LMC

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