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Tarantula nebula in the LMC, with supernova 1987A

Date created: 1987-03-11

Tags: supernova, AAT, SN1987A

The brightest star in this picture is the first supernova to be visible to the unaided eye for almost 400 years. It appeared in a region rich in young, blue stars and it was one of these which destroyed itself. When this picture was taken, about 2 weeks after the supernova was discovered, at the end of February, 1987, the expanding shell of material blasted from the star had already changed from blue to orange-red as it cooled. The location of the supernova in the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) means that it can only be seen from the far southern hemisphere. This was very convenient for observing  the subsequent evolution of the supernova, since the LMC is always above the horizon of the AAT at some time of night throughout the year.

Photograph made from plates taken 1987 March 8.
Top left is NE. Image width is about 28 arc min.

Credit: David Malin

© Australian Astronomical Observatory