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The Vela supernova remnant and the Gum nebula, wide field

Date created: 1987-03-30

Tags: supernova remnant, Vela, PSR J0835-4510, nebula, supernova, widefield, emission

About 120 centuries ago an inconspicuous star in the constellation of Vela brightened by about 100 million times to rival the Moon as the brightest object in the night sky. This photograph shows a portion of the north-western quadrant of an expanding nebulous shell, which now surrounds the site of the explosion. Near the centre of the nebula (and not seen here) is the Vela pulsar (PSR J0835-4510), a rapidly-spinning neutron star only a few kilometres in diameter, the remnant of the star that exploded. This tiny, massive object spins about 11 times a second and is among the faintest stars ever studied at optical wavelengths, a far cry from its brief glory as one of the brightest stars ever seen. The Vela supernova remnant is in the same direction as the diffuse Gum nebula, which appears as the biggest emission nebula in the sky. Click here for bigger image.

Photograph made from plates taken in April 1976.
Image width is about 3.3 degrees

Credit: David Malin

© Australian Astronomical Observatory