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February 20, 2012 - Sideways Supernova

Sideways Supernova Twenty-five years ago this week, astronomers the world over witnessed the closest and brightest supernova in nearly four centuries. Known as SN1987A, this catastrophic explosion took place 170,000 light-years away in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a nearby galaxy, and it was visible to the naked eye for nearly a year. Supernovae occur when massive stars collapse and eject most of their mass in a violent explosion. Astronomers at the European Southern Observatory have studied the ejected matter of the SN1987A, which from Earth appears as three overlapping rings. This artist’s impression reveals the hourglass shape that SN1987A would display if we could view it from the side. Two outer rings, one inner ring, and the deformed, innermost expelled material are visible.

Image credit: ESO / L. Calçada

Weekly Calendar

February 20-26, 2012

Holidays - Sky Events - Space History

Moon phase Monday 20

Presidents' Day

1962: Friendship 7 launched; John Glenn becomes first American to orbit Earth
1965: Ranger 8 impacts the Moon, returns photographs
1994: Clementine enters lunar orbit

Moon phase Tuesday 21

New Moon 5:35 PM ET

1931: Germany's first liquid-fuel rocket launched by VfR flies 10 feet

Moon phase Wednesday 22

Ash Wednesday

Pallas in conjunction with Sun

1966: Cosmos 110 launched, sets record for dogs in space (22 days)
1978: First Navstar GPS satellite launched
1996: STS-75 Columbia launched

Moon phase Thursday 23

1987: Supernova 1987a explodes
1990: Pioneer 11 leaves solar system
1997: Flash fire in Mir Kvant module

Moon phase Friday 24

Uranus 6° south of Moon

1968: Discovery of first pulsar announced
1969: Mariner 6 launched
2007Rosetta spacecraft flies by Mars
2011: STS-133 Discovery launched

Moon phase Saturday 25

Venus 3° south of Moon

Moon phase Sunday 26

1842: Camille Flammarion born
1966: First Saturn 1B rocket launched

Suggestions for new history dates or better links? Corrections for errors on this page? Please e-mail me.