A serene spiral with a double blast

By Phil Plait | August 1, 2012 7:00 am

It’s been a while since I posted a devastating spiral galaxy picture, so why not now? I present NGC 1187, a gorgeous barred spiral about 60 million light years away:

[Click to galactinate, or grab the 3300 x 1900 pixel version.]

This image was taken with the Very Large Telescope to help astronomers study a star called Supernova 2007Y that exploded in this galaxy. Can you find it? Yeah, good luck with that; there are a gazillion stars in the picture. The folks at the European Southern Observatory helpfully circled it in this annotated version. Were you right?*

Anyway, this was the second supernova in NGC 1187 in recent times; it also hosted one in 1982 (which had faded into obscurity by the time the above image was taken). Most spirals have supernovae in them every century or three, so this was unusual but not necessarily weird. The rate is statistical so you might get two close together, or a long stretch without one. The last one in our Milky Way was about 170 years ago, and the last known before that was 400 years ago.

NGC 1187 is a gas-rich galaxy, and is forming lots of stars. That might lead to a higher-than-normal supernova rate, since that means more high-mass stars are being born, only to explode a few million years later. Both of the recent supernovae in NGC 1187 were of the same type – the core collapse of a high-mass star – so maybe this does play into it. I suppose time will tell. If we get an elevated rate over the next few decades, that’ll be interesting.

Astronomers will of course continue to study this galaxy and look for more supernovae. The science of that would be well worth the time, and in the meantime we would get even more lovely pictures of this spectacular island universe.

Image credit: ESO


* Liar.


Related Posts:

- Discovery Channel telescope sees first light!
- Setting the bar (about barred spiral galaxies)
- More M95 supernova news: progenitor found!
- Birth cry of a supernova

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Pretty pictures

Comments (11)

Links to this Post

  1. Weekly Roundup #5 | Skeptical Monsters | August 5, 2012
  1. Charles Boyer

    170 and 400 years is a mere instant on an astronomical time-scale, right?

    And also, question: how much of our own galaxy can we actually see?

  2. Infinite123Lifer

    I am no expert, but they’ll stop me if I am wrong . . . or even a bit off ;-)

    @Charles Boyer:

    Not sure where you got 170 and 400 years but considering the distance within the visible Universe and the observed (or inferred?) rate of expansion and the equation d=rt it follows that time . . . is relative . . . to distance and rate and that the estimated age of the Universe ( which I think is considered on the order of astronomical time scales) is IIRC 13.7 billion years.

    570y/13,700,000,000y= a mere instant in astronomical time.
    —–

    Ok Phil where do you guys keep the Eonglass and who’s responsible for turning it every billion years or so? :-D

    To get an Eonglass: If one could estimate the grains of sand in a typical hour glass and the rate at which they fall . . . I suppose you could do one of two things to change an hourglass to an eonglass (which BTW is NOT practical). . . Increase the total size of the hourglass by 13,700,000,000 years*365days/year*24hours/day

    (That might be right, hmm, left with hours comparing to size . . . Hey, didn’t you know, its still (sighs & facepalms) Rookie Day ;-) ?)

    or you could use a standard hourglass and just have the sand particles fall through at a depressingly slow rate.

    FWIW ;-)

    —–
    Phil, what would you offer on odds for a 3rd supernova in say the next 30 years? I might take 570:1 ;-)

  3. Infinite123Lifer

    In the spirit of MTU ;-)

    Infinite123Lifer said:
    “Increase the total size of the hourglass by 13,700,000,000 years*365days/year*24hours/day”

    I think I caught a mistake there . . . If I did that then I would have an AgeOfTheUniverseglass not an eonglass…

    I try again

    Increase the total . . . er, size…uh length of time? of the hourglass by 1,000,000,000 years * 365 days/year * 24 hours/day

    Oh my :-

    Er, sorry for the mess fellas

  4. Infinite123Lifer

    “I might take 570:1″

    that should be or could be? 1:570 that a supernova WILL NOT occur in the next 30 years (jeez now iam bungling odds). Well, considering were talking astronomically timed events I think its a decently intriguing bet.

    Hmm, odds.

    As if there wasn’t enough clean up already on the other aisles :-[

  5. Chris

    Anyone know where the 1982 supernova was located? I was just thinking that because of the speed of light, the 2007 event could have actually occurred before the 1982 event depending on where it was.

  6. Charlie Foxtrot

    Oh! There! That was going to be my second guess! (I went for the whiter fuzzy one on the tip of the western spiral arm)

  7. Messier Tidy Upper

    NGC 1187 looks very much like the as-accurate-as-we -can-make-them artists impressions of our Milky Way Galaxy from memory – very similar galaxy, near-twin aesthetically and same class as our own, I’d say, right?

    This image was taken with the Very Large Telescope to help astronomers study a star called Supernova 2007Y that exploded in this galaxy. Can you find it? Yeah, good luck with that; there are a gazillion stars in the picture. The folks at the European Southern Observatory helpfully circled it in this annotated version. Were you right?

    No. But oddly enough my choice – orange~ish fuzzy speck just outside & a fraction down from the right hand side tip of the core and just outside the innermost spiral arm, nestled in a patch of blue between the forks of dust lanes forming a sideways Y-shape – was directly in line with it and the same sorta of orange-y-yellow colour! Wonder if that was the 1982 one? Unlikely of course but still!

    @3. Infinite123Lifer : “In the spirit of MTU .. ;-)

    Sincerest form of flattery? I’m honoured. Cheers! :-)

    Er, sorry for the mess fellas

    No worries. Makes a change from me making it! ;-)

  8. Herman

    Woohoo! My first guess was right! It wasn’t as big and yellow/orange-ish as the foreground stars and a bit too bright for the outer regions of that galaxy. It just felt out of place. I like to imagine now that I’m a born astronomer…!

  9. Infinite123Lifer

    “If we get an elevated rate over the next few decades, that’ll be interesting.”

    Or catastrophic depending on where your home planet my be :-)

    I see where the 170 and 400 came from…I just don’t see how I missed that and consequently its even stranger that I just used that number 570 to suggest odds not realizing its somewhat appropriate. TFMTTAB! :-!

    @MTU fires a nice cold Coopers Pale Ale

  10. Brian Too

    When I’m gas rich I have to light off a couple of supernova too.

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