03/04/2013 07:05 BST | Updated 03/06/2013 06:12 BST

Supernova 1987A Remnants Revealed In Startling New Detail (PICTURES)

A startling new view of what actually happens when a giant star explodes has been published.

A supernova occurs when a giant star runs out of fuel, collapses in on itself and combusts, expelling huge amounts of particles, radiation and other elements deep into space.

The new study looked at Supernova 1987A, the brightest supernova ever seen from Earth.


Above: overlay of the 7-mm radio image (brown-yellow colour scale for shades and contours) on a Hubble Space telescope image

In the 26 years since the supernova was first seen, researchers have been studying the development of 1987A for information about how the supernova occurred, and what will become of its remnants.

Using the Australia Telescope Compact Array radio telescope in New South Wales, which is able to see through gas dust and the daytime light of the sun, researchers took high resolution radio images of its remnants at precise millimetre wavelengths.

The result was a series of spectacular pictures of the "natural particle accelerator" at the heart of the supernova.

The data will give researchers a new perspective on the structure of the object and supernovas as a whole, according to the study published in Astrophysical Journal.

"Imaging distant astronomical objects like this at wavelengths less than one centimetre demands the most stable atmospheric conditions," said lead author, Dr Giovanna Zanardo of ICRAR, a joint venture of Curtin University and The University of Western Australia in Perth, in a statement.

"For this telescope these are usually only possible during cooler winter conditions but even then, the humidity and low elevation of the site makes things very challenging."

Take a look at the new pictures, below.