Phototgraphy

A record-breaking photo shows a supernova remnant in 1.3 gigapixels

gigapixel supernova remnant

Astronomers have unveiled a colossal image of the Vela Supernova Remnant, the breathtaking remains of a star that went supernova 11,000 years ago. This image is the largest ever made of this object, boasting a mind-blowing 1.3 billion pixels. For comparison, that’s over 25 times more pixels than your average smartphone camera!

Astronomers used the powerful 570-megapixel Department of Energy-fabricated Dark Energy Camera (DECam). This instrument is mounted on a powerful telescope in Chile, taking pictures in three different colors of light. By combining these separate images, astronomers can create this stunning color view, showcasing the intricate wispy filaments of gas that make up the Vela Supernova Remnant.

The image reveals a colossal graveyard of a once-mighty star. When the star exploded, its outer layers were blasted outwards, forming the shockwave that we see today. This shockwave, still expanding, heats and compresses the surrounding gas, creating the vibrant tapestry of colors in the image.

gigapixel supernova remnant
Credits: CTIO/NOIRLab/DOE/NSF/AURA, Image Processing: T.A. Rector (University of Alaska Anchorage/NSF’s NOIRLab), M. Zamani & D. de Martin (NSF’s NOIRLab)

The explosion wasn’t the complete demise of the star, as NOIRLab explains:

“After shedding its outer layers, the core of the star collapsed into a neutron star — an ultra-dense ball consisting of protons and electrons that have been smashed together to form neutrons. The neutron star, named the Vela Pulsar, is now an ultra-condensed object with the mass of a star like the Sun contained in a sphere just a few kilometers across. Located in the lower left region of this image, the Vela Pulsar is a relatively dim star that is indistinguishable from its thousands of celestial neighbors. Still reeling from its explosive death, the Vela Pulsar spins rapidly on its own axis and possesses a powerful magnetic field. These properties result in twin beams of radiation that sweep the sky 11 times per second, just like the consistent blips of a rotating lighthouse bulb.”

gigapixel supernova remnant
image credits: CTIO/NOIRLab/DOE/NSF/AURA, Image Processing: T.A. Rector (University of Alaska Anchorage/NSF’s NOIRLab), M. Zamani & D. de Martin (NSF’s NOIRLab)

This record-breaking image is a testament to the incredible capabilities of DECam. With its wide field of view and powerful technology, DECam allows astronomers to peer deep into the universe and capture faint objects in exquisite detail. The image of the Vela Supernova Remnant is a truly incredible glimpse into the violent beauty of stellar death and the intricate structures it leaves behind.

You’ll find the zoomable, full-resolution image here.

[via Colossal; lead image credits: CTIO/NOIRLab/DOE/NSF/AURA, Image Processing: T.A. Rector (University of Alaska Anchorage/NSF’s NOIRLab), M. Zamani & D. de Martin (NSF’s NOIRLab); cropped]



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