ESA/Hubble & NASA, A. Filippenko
The Hubble Space Telescope has released an image of a small galaxy, UGC 5189A, observed in the constellation Leo, 150 million light-years from Earth. A supernova explosion was observed in this galaxy in 2010. SN 2010jl is a Type II supernova, marking the death of a massive star that had at least 40 to 50 solar masses in its lifetime. Explosions occur when such massive stars run out of fuel for nuclear fusion and the energy that has helped them fight gravitational collapse for millions or billions of years. While the study of supernovae is of great value to scientists, the study of debris left behind by cosmic explosions can be just as informative. For example, it can determine the conditions necessary for a supernova to occur or track changes in a star’s environment. Therefore, Hubble has observed UGC 5189A many times. In just three years, this galactic supernova produced at least 2.5 times more visible energy in all wavelengths than the sun emitted. UGC 5189A is 36,000 light-years wide, compared to the Milky Way’s diameter of 100,000 light-years. In the image, the small galaxy appears as a slightly deformed disk that curves upward. The blue region to the right of the galaxy is a bright cloud of gas and dust. The left side of UGC 5189A is not very bright. There is also gas and dust here, but the layers are not uniform. A long plume of gas extends into the upper left corner of the image.
Hubble didn’t study UGC 5189A just to study supernova debris. The telescope has also helped explore several other more distant galaxies that have recently experienced stellar explosions.