Part of the Vela supernova remnant (wide field)
AAO image reference AAT 78b.    « Previous || Next »

Part of the Vela supernova remnant, vela_supernova.jpg
Top left is NE. Image width is about 37 arc min
Image and text © 2000-2010, Australian Astronomical Observatory, photograph by David Malin.

A supernova event marks the catastrophic end-point in the life of a massive star. The self-destruction of the star releases a huge amount of energy as radiation of all kinds, but a substantial fraction of the force of the explosion blasts the outer part of the supernova into an expanding shell of matter that travels through the almost empty space between the stars. As the rapidly moving blast wave encounters the relatively stationary interstellar medium it creates a very narrow, luminous shock front that appears as a faint nebula. Because the shock front is very convoluted the nebulosity appears to be highly structured and the various colours define different energy levels within the interaction.

Though the star responsible for the Vela supernova remnant exploded 12,000 years ago, it is still affecting its environment. The other supernova remnant associated with the explosion is a neutron star, a pulsar, PSR J0835-4510, rotating 11 times a second. It is not in this image, and in any case would be too faint to be seen here. The green line across the picture is the track of a piece of 'space junk', a spent rocket casing, a dead (or just possibly alive) satellite that crossed the field of view during the exposure of the green-sensitive plate. It had been removed on the previous image.

Related Images
AAT 78.    Part of the Vela supernova remnant
AAT 78a.  Part of the Vela supernova remnant (wide angle, no satellite trail)
AAT 84.    NGC 2736, the 'Pencil nebula' in Vela
UKS 2.     The Vela supernova remnant
UKS 2a.    The Vela supernova remnant and part of the Gum nebula
UKS 2b.    Position of the Vela pulsar in the Vela supernova remnant
INT 7.       NGC 6955 and IC 1340, part of the Veil nebula
INT 8.       IC 1340, part of the Veil nebula
Constellation of Vela (external site)

For details of photographic exposure, search technical table by AAT reference number.

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Updated by David Malin, 2010, August 1