By: SPACE.com Staff
Published: 08/01/2012 10:59 AM EDT on SPACE.com
A scintillating spiral galaxy that played host to two supernova explosions in the past 30 years takes center stage in a new image captured by a telescope in Chile's high desert.
The galaxy NGC 1187 is located about 60 million light-years away, in the constellation of Eridanus (The River). The European Southern Observatory's (ESO) Very Large Telescope in Chile captured the most detailed image of this impressive spiral galaxy.
Two separate supernovas have exploded within NGC 1187 since 1982, with the latest one occurring in 2007, ESO officials said in a statement. Supernovas are violent explosions that occur when a star has reached the end of its life. These blasts are some of the most energetic events throughout the universe, and can briefly outshine entire galaxies before they fade away over the course of several weeks or months.
In fact, during the explosion, supernovas can radiate energy comparable to the amount the sun is expected to emit over the course of its entire life, according to ESO officials in an announcement unveiling the new image today (Aug. 1).
The first supernova found in NGC 1187, officially called SN 1982R, was detected in October 1982 at ESO's La Silla Observatory in Chile's Atacama Desert. The second one, called SN 2007Y, was spotted by amateur astronomer Berto Monard in South Africa in 2007. [Amazing Pictures of Supernovas in Deep Space]
Astronomers studied SN 2007Y in great detail, and monitored the supernova using several different telescopes for about a year. This newly released image of NGC 1187 was created from observations that were taken from this roughly year-long study.
Supernova SN 2007Y can even be seen, long after the period of its maximum brightness, near the bottom of the image, ESO officials said.
The photo shows NGC 1187 almost face-on, which offers a clear view of the galaxy's mesmerizing spiral structure. Roughly half a dozen wispy spiral arms can clearly be seen, with bluish specks indicating the presence of stars being born from the clouds of gas and interstellar dust.
The central region of the galaxy is made up of old stars, gas and dust, and can be seen glowing yellow in the new image. NGC 1187 has a subtle central bar structure at its heart, which is thought to help channel gas from the spiral arms to the galactic center, spurring star formation in that region.
In the backdrop, fainter and more distant galaxies can be spotted, including some bright ones that are so luminous they even shine through the disk of NGC 1187. The reddish glow of these other galaxies can be picked out from the pale blue star clusters of NGC 1187.
The spiral galaxy NGC 1187 was discovered by the famed British astronomer William Herschel in 1784.
Hubble's 20th anniversary image shows a mountain of dust and gas rising in the Carina Nebula. The top of a three-light-year tall pillar of cool hydrogen is being worn away by the radiation of nearby stars, while stars within the pillar unleash jets of gas that stream from the peaks. Credit: NASA, ESA, and M. Livio and the Hubble 20th Anniversary Team (STScI)
Credit: NASA, ESA, and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA) Acknowledgment: W. Keel (University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa)
Credit: A. Caulet (ST-ECF, ESA) and NASA
Credit: NASA and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA) Acknowledgment: Dr. Raghvendra Sahai (JPL) and Dr. Arsen R. Hajian (USNO)
Credit: NASA, ESA, F. Paresce (INAF-IASF, Bologna, Italy), R. O'Connell (University of Virginia, Charlottesville), and the Wide Field Camera 3 Science Oversight Committee
Image Credit: NASA, ESA and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA) Acknowledgment: R. Sahai (Jet Propulsion Lab) and B. Balick (University of Washington)
Credit: NASA, Andrew Fruchter and the ERO Team [Sylvia Baggett (STScI), Richard Hook (ST-ECF), Zoltan Levay (STScI)]
Credit: NASA; ESA; Hans Van Winckel (Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium); and Martin Cohen (University of California, Berkeley)
Arp 274 is a trio of galaxies. They appear to be partially overlapping in this image, but may be located at different distances. Credit: NASA, ESA, M. Livio and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)
This youngest-known supernova remnant in our galaxy lies 10,000 light years away in the constellation Cassiopeia. The light from this exploding star first reached Earth in the 1600s. Image Credit: NASA and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA) Acknowledgment: R. Fesen (Dartmouth) and J. Morse (Univ. of Colorado)
An onionskin-like structure of concentric dust shells surround a central, aging star. Twin beams of light radiate from the star and illuminate the usually invisible dust. Artificial colors show how light reflects off the particles and heads toward Earth. Credit: NASA and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA) Acknowledgment: W. Sparks (STScI) and R. Sahai (JPL)
Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble SM4 ERO Team
Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble SM4 ERO Team
Plumes of glowing hydrogen blast from the central nucleus of M82. The pale, star-like objects are clusters of tens to hundreds of thousands of stars. Credit: NASA, ESA, and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA) Acknowledgment: J. Gallagher (University of Wisconsin), M. Mountain (STScI), and P. Puxley (National Science Foundation)
Credit: NASA, ESA, and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA) Acknowledgment: A. Nota (STScI/ESA)
A billowing tower of gas and dust rises from the stellar nursery known as the Eagle Nebula. This small piece of the Eagle Nebula is 57 trillion miles long (91.7 trillion km). Credit: NASA, ESA, and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)
Image Credit: NASA and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA) Acknowledgment: Ray A. Lucas (STScI/AURA)
Credit: E.J. Schreier (STScI), and NASA
Credit: NASA and E. Karkoschka (University of Arizona)
Credit: NASA, ESA, and A. Riess (STScI/JHU)
Credit: NASA, ESA, SSC, CXC, and STScI
Image Credit: NASA, ESA, and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI)
Credits for X-ray Image: NASA/CXC/ASU/J. Hester et al. Credits for Optical Image: NASA/HST/ASU/J. Hester et al.
Thousands of stars are forming in the cloud of gas and dust known as the Orion nebula. More than 3,000 stars of various sizes appear in this image. Some of them have never been seen in visible light. Credit: NASA,ESA, M. Robberto (Space Telescope Science Institute/ESA) and the Hubble Space Telescope Orion Treasury Project Team
Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)
Credit: NASA, ESA, P. Challis and R. Kirshner (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics)
Credit: NASA, ESA and J. Hester (ASU)
Credit: NASA, ESA, and E. Karkoschka (University of Arizona)
Credit: NASA, ESA, C.R. O'Dell (Vanderbilt University), M. Meixner and P. McCullough (STScI)
Credit: NASA and The Hubble Heritage Team (AURA/STScI)
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Science Credit: NASA, ESA, and B. Schaefer and A. Pagnotta (Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge) Image Credit: NASA, ESA, CXC, SAO, the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA), and J. Hughes (Rutgers University)
Bright knots of glowing gas light up the arms of spiral galaxy M74, indicating a rich environment of star formation. Messier 74, also called NGC 628, is slightly smaller than our Milky Way. Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage (STScI/AURA)-ESA/Hubble Collaboration Acknowledgment: R. Chandar (University of Toledo) and J. Miller (University of Michigan)
Credit: H. Ford (JHU/STScI), the Faint Object Spectrograph IDT, and NASA
Credit: NASA, ESA, R. O'Connell (University of Virginia), F. Paresce (National Institute for Astrophysics, Bologna, Italy), E. Young (Universities Space Research Association/Ames Research Center), the WFC3 Science Oversight Committee, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)
The Crab Nebula is a supernova remnant, all that remains of a tremendous stellar explosion. Observers in China and Japan recorded the supernova nearly 1,000 years ago, in 1054. Credit: NASA, ESA, J. Hester and A. Loll (Arizona State University)
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Credit: NASA, ESA, STScI, J. Hester and P. Scowen (Arizona State University)
Credit: NASA, ESA, SAO, CXC, JPL-Caltech, and STScI Acknowledgment: J. DePasquale (Harvard-Smithsonian CfA), and B. Whitmore (STScI)
Credit: NASA, ESA, and Jonathan Nichols (University of Leicester)