Hubble captures brilliant cosmic fireworks

Galaxy NGC 6984

Galaxy NGC 6984, an elegant spiral galaxy in the constellation Indus about 200 million light-years away from Earth, captured by the Hubble Space Telescope. Credit: ESA / Hubble & NASA, D. Milisavljevic

This NASA/THIS Hubble Space Telescope This week’s image shows the galaxy NGC 6984, an elegant spiral galaxy in the constellation Indus about 200 million light-years away from Earth. The galaxy is a familiar sight to Hubble, already captured in 2013. The sweeping spiral arms are interspersed with a delicate trail of dark orbits of gas and dust and studded with bright stars and luminous star-forming regions.

These new observations were made after an extremely rare astronomical event – a double supernova in NGC 6984. Supernovae are unbelievably violent explosions on a really large scale, triggered by the death of massive stars. These events are powerful, but rare and fleeting – a single supernova can outshine its host galaxy in a short time. The discovery of two supernovae at roughly the same time and place (in astronomical terms) prompted speculation by astronomers that the two supernovae may be physically connected in some way. Using optical and ultraviolet observations from Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3, astronomers tried to get a better look at the location of the two supernovae, which hopefully allowed them to discover if the two supernova explosions were actually connected. Their results could give astronomers important clues in the life of binary stars.

In addition to helping solve an astronomical mystery, these new observations added more data to the 2013 observations and made it possible to create this striking new image. The observations – each of which covers only a narrow range of wavelengths – add new details and a wider range of colors to the image.

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