Paula Cleggett-Haleim Headquarters, Washington, D.C.

(Phone: 202/453-1547)

August 29, 1990 1 p.m. EDT

Randee Exler Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. (Phone: 301/286-7277) Ray Villard Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, Md. (Phone: 301/338-4514) RELEASE: 90-117 HUBBLE SPACE TELESCOPE RESOLVES GASEOUS RING AROUND SUPERNOVA

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, a cooperative program with the European Space Agency, has provided a dramatic new look at the remnants of one of the most spectacular and unexpected astronomical events of this century, the great supernova of 1987. Observations made with the European Space Agency's Faint Object Camera, on August 23-24, have provided, with unprecedented sharpness and clarity down to .1 arc second, an intriguing view of the supernova and its surrounding shell of stellar material. The image, taken in visible light, reveals the details of the circumstellar shell, whose characteristics previously had been suggested by ground based observations and data from the International Ultraviolet Explorer satellite. This new image will provide important insights into the evolution of massive stars and their catastrophic deaths as

supernova explosions. The visible light image clearly shows an elliptical, luminescent ring of gas about 1.3 light-years across surrounding the still glowing center of the 1987 explosion. The ring is a relic of the hydrogen-rich stellar envelope that was ejected in the form of a gentle "stellar wind" by the progenitor, which was a red supergiant star that existed an estimated 10,000 years before the explosion took place. - more -2-

This diffuse gas was subsequently swept and compressed into a narrow, high-density shell by a high-speed stellar wind ejected from the star when it evolved back to a blue supergiant stage. The image suggests that the star was more efficient at compressing gas along an equatorial plane, to create a ring-like structure. Because the ring is inclined along the line-of-sight, it has an elliptical appearance. In the first few hours following the supernova blast the ring was fully ionized and heated by a flood of ultraviolet radiation. Three and a half years later, the ring still glows at a temperature of more than 20,000 degrees Kelvin. The slowly expanding ring is destined to be a relatively short-lived structure. It will be overtaken by the swiftly moving ejecta, travelling at 1/10th the speed of light, from the supernova in a few more years. This collision will heat the ring such that it will brightly glow in X-ray and ultraviolet light. Within a few decades, the ring will be completely engulfed by supernova debris which will be visible for centuries as a bright supernova remnant. The Space Telescope Science Institute is operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc., for NASA, under contract with the Goddard Space Flight Center,

Greenbelt, Md. - end NASA news releases and other NASA information are available electronically on CompuServe and GEnie, the General Electric Network for Information Exchange. For information on CompuServe, call 1-800-848-8199 and ask for representative 176. For information on GEnie, call 1-800/638-9636. Media representatives only can obtain photographs to illustrate this news story by calling 202/453-8375. Color: 90-HC-515 B & W: 90-H-556

TO: MDS/PRA Group 1615 L Street, N.W. - Suite 100 Washington, D.C. 20036 DATE & TIME: AUGUST 29, 1990 ORDERED BY: Edward Campion NASA Headquarters/LMD 400 Maryland Avenue, SW Washington, DC 20546 PHONE: 202/453-8400 PROJECT TITLE: Release No: 90-117 PRINT ORDER: 2304 PRINTING: Camera Ready, lst pg on NASA logo, other pages plain ENCLOSE & MAIL: Release of 2 pages

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