Telescope captures dramatic nebula image

Sept. 12, 2012 at 5:21 PM
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GARCHING, Germany, Sept. 12 (UPI) -- Astronomers say a telescope in Chile captured a dramatic image of a nebula resembling a witch's broom, the remnant of a supernova explosion 11,000 years ago.

The death of the star behind the supernova created a beautiful vista as material blasted out into space formed strange structures in the sky, a release from the European Southern Observatory said.

Glowing filaments in the nebula were created by the supernova, the brightest of which resembles a pencil, thus the nebula's official name Pencil Nebula, although the whole structure strongly resembles a witch's broom, the release from the ESO's headquarters in Garching, Germany, said.

Shock waves from the supernova moved at million of miles per hour, expanding through space until they plowed into the gas between other stars, creating the bright filaments of the nebula by heating the gas to extreme temperatures.

About 0.75 light-years across, the nebula is moving through the interstellar medium at about 400,000 mph, meaning even at its distance of approximately 800 light-years from Earth it will noticeably change its position relative to the background stars within a human lifetime, astronomers said.

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