Supernovae are born when stars explode, and we know that galaxy NGC 5468 has hosted a number of such events in the past 20 years.
Despite being just over 130 million light-years away, its orientation with respect to us makes it easier to spot the action.
As this image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope shows, we see NGC 5468 face on, meaning we can see the galaxy’s loose, open spiral pattern in beautiful detail.
Supernovae happen in one of two ways.
In one scenario, a massive star depletes its fuel at the end of its life, becoming dynamically unstable and unable to support its bulk, causing it to collapse inward and violently explode.
In the other, a white dwarf (the dense remnant of a once-normal star) in an orbiting stellar couple siphons more mass off its companion than it is able to support, igniting runaway nuclear fusion in its core and beginning the supernova process.
Both result in an intensely bright object that can rival the light of a whole galaxy – putting even NGC 5468 temporarily in the shade.
Originally published by Cosmos as Welcome to supernova central
Curated content from the editorial staff at Cosmos Magazine.
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