SUPERNOVA 1987A

CHRISTCHURCH NEW ZEALAND

1987

Surprise in the Southern Skies

CLICK ON THE PICTURES FOR A HIGHER RESOLUTION IMAGE

THE KAO STAFF AND Dr. HAL LARSON'S ASTRONOMY TEAM BESIDE THE KAO IN CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND AFTER A FLIGHT TO STUDY SUPERNOVA 1987a.

CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE ABOUT THE KAO

The Large Magellenic Cloud, a small neighbor to our own Milky Way Galaxy, looks to the eye like a faint puffy cloud in the Southern Hemisphere night sky. Super Nova 1987a is the lower of the two bright spots at the upper left of the mass of stars.

A Supernova is a large star that reaches a stage when it doesn't produce enough energy to resist the massive forces of gravity. It collapses, resulting in a massive explosion. This huge event is best viewed from far far away. At a safe distance, we observe a sudden brightening in a star that lasts a few months before fading away. Supernovas often leave behind huge clouds of gases that are seen as nebulae. SN1987a has a huge companion, the Tarantula Nebulae which is an excellent example.

 

Supernova 1987a appears like a bright star in this closeup picture. Because it is not even in the Milky Way Galaxy, the star which exploded would not have been visible accept through the largest of telescopes. The supernova was bright enough to be easily seen by eye. Just above is the Tarantula Nebulae (30 Doradus) which is the brightest known nebulae. Dim to us because of distance, if the Tarantula were as near as the better known Orion Nebulae, it would cover one fourth the sky and would cast visible shadows.

With the world's only flying observatory as a place to mount their cameras, the CAN DO team always tried to capture images in wavelengths not available on the ground. For, Supernova 1987a, pictures were taken with Kodak Infrared Color Film to compare to regular color film. In these pictures of the Large Magellenic Cloud and SN1987a compare the IR color to the visible. Compare the brightness of SN1987a to the Tarantula. How are they different ?

Back to the Can Do Story

Back to the Beginning