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Hubble images show delicate wisps of starstuff

 larger 
The Veil Nebula, as seen by ground-based telescopes and a detail image (inset) obtained by the Hubble  

BALTIMORE (CNN) -- The European Space Agency debuted new Hubble Space Telescope images Tuesday showing incredibly fine wisps of gas threading through space -- remnants of a massive stellar explosion.

The images focus on a portion of the Veil Nebula, which is part of the constellation Cygnus, the Swan. This area, also called the Cygnus Loop, was the site of a supernova that occurred 5,000 years ago. A supernova happens when a star explodes and clouds of glowing gas shoot through space at high rates of speed.

The gauzy wisps in the Hubble image are actually thin streams of this glowing gas.

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Astronomers who wish to better understand how stars die and how supernovas play out say they are particularly interested in studying this supernova because it occurred so recently -- in cosmic terms.

Indeed, they say the supernova would have put on an "awesome" astronomical show for early civilizations. The explosion would have been as bright as a crescent moon, and might have even been visible during the day.



RELATED STORIES:
Hubble reveals secrets of a celestial 'Blob'
October 9, 2000
Young stars belch fiery gas in Hubble time-lapse movies
September 21, 2000
Nebulous 'Spirograph' astounds Hubble astronomers
September 11, 2000
Hubble watches cosmic 'butterfly' emerge
September 5, 2000

RELATED SITES:
Space Telescope Science Institute
  • HubbleSite - Team Hubble
NASA K-12 Internet: Live from the Hubble Space Telescope
European Space Agency


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