Snapshot: Unveiling the Vela supernova remnant

A massive stellar explosion some 11,000 years ago kick-started the formation of this spectacular supernova remnant.
By | Published: November 7, 2022 | Last updated on May 18, 2023
ESO/VPHAS+ team. Acknowledgement: Cambridge Astronomical Survey Unit

Like smoke rings wafting in the air, the pink and orange wisps of the Vela supernova remnant disperse across space in this 554-million-pixel image captured by the ESO’s VLT Survey Telescope in Chile.

Located some 800 light-years away in the constellation Vela the Sails, the Vela supernova remnant is what remains of a massive star that exploded more than 11,000 years ago. As the doomed star’s outer layers raced outward, they tore through surrounding gas, compressing and heating it up to form the beautiful filaments seen above. 

Just outside of frame to the upper left resides the collapsed core of the once gigantic star. This neutron star also happens to be a pulsar, emitting radiation and spinning on its axis 10 times per second.

According to an ESO press release, researchers used the wide-field OmegaCam instrument to capture this shot of the expansive Vela supernova remnant, which could fit nine Full Moons within the same frame.