The supernova is the closest star explosion seen in centuries, presenting an unique opportunity for astronomers to study the progress of the star’s death.
The images, animations and time-lapse video have been created from data from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, Chandra X-ray Observatory and ALMA.
All three instruments have been collecting data about the star’s explosion since it was first discovered in 1987.
“The 30 years’ worth of observations of SN 1987A are important because they provide insight into the last stages of stellar evolution,” said Robert Kirshner of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation in Palo Alto, California.
The data suggests the supernova has passed a critical threshold: the shockwave is now beyond the ring of gas produced late in the life of the pre-supernova. It’s knot known what lies beyond the ring.
“The details of this transition will give astronomers a better understanding of the life of the doomed star, and how it ended,” said Kari Frank of Penn State University who led the latest Chandra study of SN 1987A.
Supernovas occur when a change in a star’s core causes it to explode. They are the brightest explosions in space.
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