While appearing as a delicate and light veil draped across the sky, this image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope actually depicts a small section of the Cygnus supernova blast wave, located around 2,400 light-years away. The name of the supernova remnant comes from its position in the northern constellation of Cygnus (the Swan), where it covers an area 36 times larger than the full Moon.
The original supernova explosion blasted apart a dying star about 20 times more massive than our Sun between 10,000 and 20,000 years ago. Since then, the remnant has expanded 60 light-years from its center. The shockwave marks the outer edge of the supernova remnant and continues to expand at around 220 miles per second. The interaction of the ejected material and the low-density interstellar material swept up by the shockwave forms the distinctive veil-like structure seen in this image.
Text credit: ESA (European Space Agency)
Image credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA, W. Blair; acknowledgment: Leo Shatz