Gazing out into the night sky, it’s easy to be in awe of the wonders of the universe. But there’s one particular sight that’s truly out of this world: the swirling galaxy IC 1776, located over 150 million light-years away from Earth in the constellation Pisces. The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope recently captured a stunning image of this distant star system, showing its majestic curves and vibrant colors.
However, the beauty of IC 1776 belies a much darker secret. In 2015, the Lick Observatory Supernova Search detected a powerful supernova, or explosive stellar death, within its celestial confines. Scientists around the world used both robotic and human telescopes to investigate both the initial burst and its lingering aftermath.
Thanks to their efforts, we now know more about what happens when a star dies in a cataclysmic event like a supernova. We can detect these explosions from far away and measure their brightness and spectra before they fade away. In addition to understanding more about how supernovae form in the first place, this information can help us gain a better understanding of our vast universe.
The image of IC 1776 speaks volumes about what lies beyond our own planet’s atmosphere. Its intricate spiral arms are difficult to distinguish from one another, but their faint edges hint at a certain fragile beauty, while its glowing yellow core hints at a deep energy. In addition to stars and galaxies in warm colors, this picturesque star system also boasts small wisps of blue which indicate areas where new stars are forming.
No matter how far away IC 1776 is from us here on Earth, it still serves as a reminder that we’re all part of something much bigger than ourselves: an ever-expanding universe that’s full of mysteries both dark and beautiful.