ROBERT GENDLER / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY ROBERT GENDLER / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Cygnus Loop supernova remnant, optical image. This shell of glowing gas is the remains of a massive star that ended its life in a supernova explosion several thousand years ago. A supernova occurs when a huge star runs out of fuel and can no longer produce the energy to resist gravitational collapse. The outer layers collapse suddenly and then rapidly rebound off the core, hurtling into space at great speed. When the ejected material impacts the interstellar medium it is heated by the shock, causing it to be ionised and glow. The brightest part of the Cygnus Loop is the Veil nebula (upper left). This remnant lies around 1400 light years from Earth in the constellation Cygnus.
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