Hubble Captures Part of Supernova Blast that Ancient Humans Saw 15,000 Years Ago

ESA/NASA/Hubble/W.Blair

So the supernova explosion lives on as a web of colorful, glowing ribbons in the sky. This is called the Cygnus Loop because it’s located in the constellation Cygnus from our vantage point on Earth.

NASA’s Hubble space telescope snapped a striking photo of these supernova remnants, which was released last month. It captures a small section of the blast wave in unprecedented detail.

The European Space Agency, which co-manages Hubble with NASA, published the image below last month.

The entire blast wave spans an area of the sky six times larger than the full moon.

An ultraviolet image of ultraviolet image of the Cygnus Loop nebula, taken by NASA’s Galaxy Evolution Explorer.NASA/JPL-Caltech
The image above, captured by NASA’s Galaxy Evolution Explorer telescope before it shut down in 2013, shows the full Cygnus Loop.

This 1991 image from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope captures a small section of the Cygnus Loop supernova remnant.NASA and J.J. Hester (Arizona State University)
Hubble first snapped a photo of the Cygnus Loop in 1991, though at that time the space telescope’s primary mirror had an abnormality that made its images a little blurry. Hubble had launched just one year earlier; it would be another two years before astronauts visited and fixed the telescope.

Hubble was the first space telescope designed for in-orbit maintenance. Astronauts have visited it four more times to replace parts and upgrade its hardware.

As a result, the telescope takes much better pictures now, and we can see the Cygnus Loop in better detail than ever before.

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