Webb Unveils Previously Unseen Features in Iconic Supernova

The Webb telescope unveils the iconic supernova’s hidden details, exposing a central keyhole structure and mysterious crescent features, shedding new light on this celestial spectacle.

APA 7: ChatGPT. (2023, September 2). Webb Unveils Previously Unseen Features in Iconic Supernova. PerEXP Teamworks. [Article Link]

Webb’s NIRCam (Near-Infrared Camera) has unveiled an intricate snapshot of SN 1987A (Supernova 1987A). In the heart of this image, you’ll spot a keyhole-shaped formation, a result of material expelled during the supernova’s explosion. But here’s the exciting twist: flanking this central structure, Webb has discovered subtle crescents, a new revelation. Moving outward, an equatorial ring, composed of material ejected eons before the supernova’s cataclysmic burst, features luminous hot spots. Extending beyond this is a gentle, diffuse glow, accompanied by two faint outer rings. (NASA)

In this image, a central structure resembling a keyhole takes center stage. This region is densely packed with gas and dust expelled during the supernova’s explosion, so dense that even Webb’s near-infrared detection capabilities can’t penetrate it, creating the characteristic “Hole” within the keyhole shape.

Encircling the inner keyhole is a brilliant equatorial ring, forming a waistband that links two faint arms extending in an hourglass shape towards the outer rings. The equatorial ring, composed of material ejected tens of thousands of years prior to the supernova’s detonation, boasts bright hot spots, evidence of the shockwave generated by the supernova’s impact on the ring. Now, these hot spots extend beyond the ring, accompanied by diffuse emissions surrounding it. These areas indicate where the supernova shocks have encountered additional outer material.

However, the Webb telescope has uncovered a new feature within this supernova remnant, which wasn’t as clearly discerned by previous instruments such as NASA’s Hubble, Spitzer Space Telescopes, and Chandra X-ray Observatory.

This newfound feature consists of small crescent-like structures believed to be part of the outer layers of material ejected during the supernova’s explosion. The brightness of these crescents may be attributed to limb brightening, an optical illusion caused by our viewing angle, making it appear as if there is more material in these crescents than there might actually be.

What distinguishes these images is their exceptional resolution. Spitzer, although invaluable in studying this supernova over its lifetime, couldn’t capture such intricate and detailed views. Despite decades of research since the supernova’s initial discovery, questions linger, particularly regarding the neutron star that should have formed following the explosion. Webb will persist in observing this supernova, harnessing its Near-Infrared Spectrograph (NIRSpec) and Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI) to provide astronomers with high-quality infrared data. This ongoing collaboration with Hubble, Chandra, and other observatories promises fresh insights into the past and future of this iconic supernova.


  1. WEBSITE NASA. (2023, August 31). Webb reveals new structures within iconic Supernova. NASA. [NASA]
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