Location of Photo:
Siding Spring Observatory Australia(Remote Astronomy via iTelescope)
Date/Time of photo:
Takahashi TOA-130; KAF−16803 CCD
In the vast cosmic theater, there are no performances more powerful or dramatic than the death of a star. Over a thousand years ago, somewhere in the constellation of Vela, 800 light years away from us, a star reached the end of its long journey. In an incredible burst of energy, the star collapsed and exploded, casting off its outer layers into the endless expanse of space. This event, known as a supernova, gave birth to the Vela Supernova Remnant, which you see in this image. The violent birth of this remnant has left a brilliant nebula, a cosmic tapestry woven with the gossamer threads of interstellar gas and dust. Illuminated by the harsh glow of the remaining core, or neutron star, these materials paint a celestial picture of extraordinary beauty, visible only to our most powerful telescopes. Each photon of light we now receive from Vela embarked on its journey toward us around the time when the first great civilizations on Earth were laying the foundations of their cultures. Imagine, for a moment, a being or an entity living near the Vela Supernova, witnessing that colossal event first-hand. It would have outshone everything else in the sky, a temporary second sun blazing in the void. The death of a star may seem like an ending, but in truth, it's also a beginning. The material ejected by the supernova will eventually find its way into new celestial bodies. Stars, planets, perhaps even life, can owe their existence to these stellar remnants. We ourselves are made of star-stuff, atoms forged in the nuclear furnaces of long-dead stars. In this way, we are all children of the cosmos, intimately linked to the life and death of stars.