Magazine article Science News

New Activity near Supernova 1987A

Magazine article Science News

New Activity near Supernova 1987A

Article excerpt

Seven years ago this week, astronomers witnessed the birth of the first supernova visible to the naked eye in nearly 400 years. Supernova 1987A began fading from view in mid-1987 and has stayed dim ever since. But just in time to mark the seventh anniversary of this event, astronomers have found that a ring of gas surrounding the remains of this exploded star has brightened. E. Joseph Wampler of the European Southern Observatory in Garching, Germany, says the brightening may be a prelude to the fireworks expected some 4 years from now, when the densest part of the supernovas blast wave slams into the gas ring.

Wampler and Li-Fan Wang of the Beijing Astronomical Observatory viewed the ring in visible light last December using the New Technology Telescope in La Serena, Chile. Some parts of the ring were emitting more visible light than at any time during the past 2 years, they report in a Jan. 27 circular of the International Astronomical Union. …

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