Hubble telescope captures the expansion of the Veil Nebula

Scientists working with a space telescope have been capturing a small section of the Veil Nebula for many years. This huge but very dim object is the remnants of a supernova. The researchers conclude that its expansion in space does not slow down.

Fragment of the Veil Nebula observed by the Hubble telescope. Source: NASA, ESA, Ravi Sankrit (STScI)

Amazing Veil Nebula

Astronomers used the Hubble Space Telescope to capture a tiny section of the Veil Nebula, also known as the Cygnus Loop, for 20 years, from 2001 to 2020. They told incredible things about what was happening to it.

The Veil Nebula is a large but very dim supernova remnant that is observed in the constellation Cygnus. From 10 to 20 thousand years ago, a star 20 times more massive than the Sun exhausted its reserves of thermonuclear fuel and exploded. It threw a huge mass of gas into space. Since then, it has been expanding in space, forming an irregular bubble of complex shape.

The distance to the Veil Nebula is 2,400 light-years, and its diameter is about 120 light-years. Therefore, in the terrestrial sky it has a huge size — 3 °. However, it is so dim that it is practically invisible; therefore, it was discovered only in 1784.

Shells are expanding

The thin, elongated object in the image taken by Hubble is one of the numerous fragments of the former shell of the star that have been flying in all directions from the star for several thousand years. This telescope has been watching it for 20 years.

The pictures show how it changes its position in space and thanks to this, scientists could determine its speed. It is equal to 800 thousand km/h. This is enough to cover the distance from the Earth to the Moon in just half an hour. It seems incredible, but by the standards of supernova remnants, this is not so much.

What surprises scientists more is that over the past 20 years, this strip of gas has not slowed down at all. Despite the fact that thousands of years have passed since the explosion that pushed it into the surrounding space, the Veil Nebula still does not reduce the speed of its expansion.

“Hubble is the only way that we can actually watch what’s happening at the edge of the bubble with such clarity,” said Ravi Sankrit, an astronomer at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland. “The Hubble images are spectacular when you look at them in detail. They’re telling us about the density differences encountered by the supernova shocks as they propagate through space, and the turbulence in the regions behind these shocks.”

According to

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