Exploding Star in Nearby Galaxy
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Exploding Star in Nearby Galaxy

April 1, 2008

NGC 2397, pictured in this Hubble image, is a classic spiral galaxy with long prominent dust lanes along the edges of its arms, seen as dark patches and streaks silhouetted against the starlight. Hubble's exquisite resolution allows the study of individual stars in nearby galaxies.

Located nearly 60 million light-years from Earth, NGC 2397 is typical of most spiral galaxies, with mostly older, yellow and red stars in its central portion, while star formation continues in the outer, bluer spiral arms. The brightest of these young, blue stars can be seen individually in this high-resolution view from Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys.

One atypical feature of this Hubble image is the view of supernova SN 2006bc taken when its brightness was on the decrease. Astronomers at Queen's University Belfast in Northern Ireland, led by Professor of Astronomy Stephen J. Smartt, requested the image as part of a long project studying massive exploding stars — supernovae. Exactly which types of stars will explode and the lowest mass of star that can produce a supernova are not known.

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