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Distant galaxy scene of cosmic violence

  |   Aug. 1, 2012 at 4:18 PM
GARCHING, Germany, Aug. 1 (UPI) -- A seemingly tranquil galaxy that has been the scene of violent cosmic events has been captured in new telescopic images, European astronomers said.

The galaxy, NGC 1187, discovered by English astronomer William Herschel in 1784, looks tranquil and unchanging but it has hosted two supernovae explosions since 1982, they said.

The galaxy's half a dozen prominent spiral arms containing large amounts of gas and dust show bluish features indicating the presence of young stars born out of the clouds of interstellar gas, a release from the European Southern Observatory's headquarters in Garching, Germany said.

In October 1982, the first supernova -- a violent stellar explosion, resulting from the death of either a massive star or a white dwarf in a binary system -- was observed in the galaxy by the ESO's LA Silla Observatory in Chile, then in 2007 a second supernova was observed by an amateur astronomer in South Africa.

The newly released image of NGC 1187, which is 60 million light-years from Earth, was created from observations taken as part of a yearlong study following the more recent supernova, which can still be seen shining long after the time of maximum brightness near the bottom of the image, astronomers said.

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