15/11/2012 04:51 GMT | Updated 14/01/2013 05:12 GMT

Nasa Pictures Dramatic Birth And Death Of A Star In One Photo (PICTURES)

Nasa has captured the stunning death of a star - and the birth of the new one - in a single photograph.

The photo depicts an enormous gas cloud, the remnant of a super nova explosion - and the birthplace of another generation of stars.


Supernova remnant W44 is described by the space agency as a "vast purple sphere" which measures about 100 light years across. It is located about 10,000 light years from Earth, and was created when an usually large star exploded at the end of its life.

At the centre of the cloud is a spinning neutron star, which is both relatively small and incredibly heavy. Like other pulsars it rotates very quickly, and spews out waves of high energy particles which appear as a 'pulse' in the night sky.

W44 is located within a huge cloud of material in which stars are constantly being formed, in the constellation Aquila. Eventually the material thrown off by the supernova itself will form the basis for new stars to form.

The picture was taken with the European Space Agency's Herschel and XMM-Newton space observatories.

Nasa further describes the photo at its website:

"At the top right of the expanding shell, there is a smaller cavity, with the shock from the supernova remnant impacting the bight arc-shaped feature. This region is filled with hot gas that has been ionized by the intense ultraviolet radiation from embedded young massive stars.

"Herschel's infrared eyes seek out regions of gently heated gas and dust further from W44, where new stars are congregating. Examples include the arrowhead-shaped star-formation region to the right of W44, which appears to point to another trio of intricate clouds further to the right and above."