Images from the VLT Survey Telescope Remains of the supernova Vela

The image of supernova remnant Vela was obtained in extraordinary detail by the VLT Survey Telescope, which is hosted at the European Southern Observatory’s (ESO) Paranal site in Chile. The beautifully colored tapestry depicts the ghostly remains of a massive star.

The Vela supernova remnant imaged by the VLT Survey Telescope. Image credit: European Southern Observatory

All that’s left of a massive star that perished in a violent explosion some 11,000 years ago is a wispy structure of pink and orange clouds. When the most massive stars die, they often go off with a crash in an explosion known as a supernova. These explosions generate shock waves, which compress the surrounding gas and form delicate thread-like structures. The energy released heats the gas tendrils, causing them to glow brightly.

The 554 million pixel image provides an exceptionally detailed view of the supernova remnant Vela, named for the southern constellation Vela (The Sails). The image could contain nine full moons and the overall cloud is considerably larger. This spectacular supernova remnant is one of the closest to Earth, about 800 light-years away.

The outermost layers of the progenitor star were thrown into the surrounding gas as it exploded, resulting in extraordinary filaments. The remnants of the star are an ultra-dense ball into which protons and electrons are forced together to form neutrons, a neutron star. The neutron star in the rest of Vela is a pulsar that spins on its axis at a speed of more than ten times per second.

The image is a mosaic of observations made with the wide-field OmegaCAM camera at ESO’s Paranal Observatory at Chile’s VLT Survey Telescope (VST). The 268 megapixel camera can capture images using various filters that allow different colors of light to pass through. Four separate filters were used in this image of Vela’s remnant, which is represented by a combination of magenta, blue, green and red.

The VST, owned by the Italian National Institute of Astrophysics, is one of the largest telescopes dedicated to exploring the night sky in visible light, with a 2.6-meter mirror. The VST Photometric Hα Survey of the Southern Galactic Plane and Bulge (VPHAS+) is an example of such a survey.

This survey studied a significant area of ​​the galaxy for more than seven years, allowing astronomers to truly understand how stars emerge, evolve and eventually die.

Fly through the remains of a dead star

Flying through the remains of a dead star. Video credit: European Southern Observatory


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