Skip to main content

Hubble captures the delicate edge of the enormous Cygnus Loop nebula

The latest image captured by the Hubble Space Telescope shows a glimpse of an elegant, delicate portion of a huge round nebula which was formed when a star 20 times the mass of our sun exploded between 10,000 and 20,000 years ago.

The supernova explosion was so fierce that the dust and gas at the edge of the shock wave is still moving at a speed of over 200 miles per second, and since the event the remnant has expanded out 60 light-years from its original position.

a small section of the Cygnus supernova blast wave
While appearing as a delicate and light veil draped across the sky, this image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope actually depicts a small section of the Cygnus supernova blast wave, located around 2,400 light-years away. The name of the supernova remnant comes from its position in the northern constellation of Cygnus (The Swan), where it covers an area 36 times larger than the full moon. ESA/Hubble & NASA, W. Blair

This image shows just one section of the Cygnus Loop, the remnants of a supernova blast located 1,500 light-years away, and despite this distance the loop is so large that it covers an area 36 times larger than the full moon. It is given its name because it is located near the Cygnus constellation, where is sits near one of the swan’s “wings.”

If you recognize the name Cygnus Loop, it may well be from another image taken by Hubble which we picked as one of the 10 best images the telescope captured since its launch. This is the Veil Nebula, another part of the same supernova remnant as the new image above, which was named for its delicate, draping appearance. Hubble had to take six different images and scientists arranged them into this mosaic to capture the nebula portion in all its glory:

The remnants of a 8,000 year old supernova
The Veil Nebula, the remnants of the supernova in another section of the Cygnus Loop NASA/ESA/Hubble Heritage Team

This particular part of the loop is considered to be its own nebula, and this portion measures 110 light-years across in total. The line shape was formed by the shock wave of the supernova explosion, and it is wispy due to filaments of gas where the blast wave meets a region of cooler gas.

Editors' Recommendations