Hubble observes supernova 1994I in M51

[SN 1994I in M51, HST] On May 12, 1994, NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has returned the most detailed images ever of supernova 1994I in the Whirlpool Galaxy M51.

The view in this picture encompasses the inner region of the galaxy's grand spiral disk, which extends all the way to the bright nucleus.

An arrow points to the location of the supernova, which lies approximately 2,000 light-years from the nucleus. The supernova appears to be superposed on a diffuse background of starlight. The Hubble Space Telescope was also used to measure the spectrum of the supernova in the ultraviolet light, which can be used to analyze the chemical composition and the motion of the gas ejected in the explosion.

This supernova was discovered on April 2, 1994 by amateur astronomers Jerry Armstrong and Tim Puckett of the Atlanta Astronomy Club and has been the target of investigations by astronomers using ground-based optical and radio telescopes and NASA's International Ultraviolet Explorer satellite. Because a supernova explosion is a billion times as bright as a star like the Sun, they can be seen to great distances and may prove useful in charting the size of the universe. These previous observations show that SN 1994I is a very unusual supernova, called "Type Ic," for which very few examples have been studied carefully. The ultraviolet observations made with HST will help astronomers understand what type of stellar explosion led to supernova 1994I.

Credit: Robert P. Kirshner/Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, NASA

  • Supernova 1994I discovery image
  • Amateur images of supernova 1994I

  • More HST images of M51

    Hartmut Frommert
    Christine Kronberg

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