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Science / Medicine : Star Explosion Nebula Seen

October 19, 1987

Astronomers have reported that they have detected the first signs of the formation of a huge transparent gas cloud called a nebula resulting from the awesome star explosion discovered in February 163,000 light-years away.

Until now, the expanding mass of gases from the supernova had been so thick and bright it had appeared opaque, like the sun.

Scientists from two major observatories in Chile, where the supernova radiation can be detected, reported at an international astrophysical conference at George Mason University that they have identified light spectra typically associated with a nebula.

"So it's a hot, transparent glowing gas now," said astronomer Steve Maran of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center at Greenbelt, Md., one of the sponsors of the three-day meeting. "This is the thing that someday may look like the Crab Nebula," he said.

The detection of the new supernova nebula was reported by Mark Phillips of the Cerro Tolo InterAmerican Observatory and I.J. Danziger of the European Southern Observatory.

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