Hubble lifts a corner of the veil

This veil is the edge of a supernova explosion that occurred roughly ten thousand years ago.

The space photo of the week is a beautiful image of part of a supernova remnant in the constellation Swan. It’s about the Veil Nebula. This remnant is over 2,000 light-years from Earth, but is over 100 light-years across. Seen from the Earth’s surface, the Veil Nebula (or Cirrus Nebula) is about as wide as six full moons side by side. The Hubble telescope zooms in too far and is therefore unable to capture the entire nebula in one image. That is why we see here a small detail of this beautiful object.

Once upon a time, the site of the supernova remnant was home to a gigantic star. This giant was twenty times more massive than our sun. Before this star exploded, the star produced a powerful solar wind. Astronomers think the electrically charged particles made a large hole in the surrounding interstellar gas. After the supernova explosion, the shock wave from this explosion reached the resulting rim of interstellar gas. Interaction between the shock wave and the rim has led to the creation of the colorful Veil Nebula.

Did you know that the Veil Nebula is still growing? Material in the outer rim of the supernova remnant travels at a speed of 350 kilometers per second.

Here you can see the entire Veil Nebula, photographed by Mikael Svalgaard. The detail captured by the Hubble telescope is at the top left.

Can’t get enough of it? In 2015, Hubble also took a beautiful picture of the Veil Nebula.

Over the past few decades, space telescopes and satellites have taken beautiful pictures of nebulae, galaxies, stellar nurseries and planets. Every weekend we retrieve one or more impressive space photos from the archive. Enjoy all the photos? View them on this page.

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