Supernova Light Echo

On 2016-02-08 a supernova was discovered in galaxy NGC 5128, known as “Centaurus A”. After being confirmed, it was given the designation SN 2016adj.

Over the next year and half, the supernova was regularly observed by the Hubble Space Telescope, showing the fading of the supernova and, more spectacularly, the light echo from the explosion propagating outward, reflected from interstellar dust in the vicinity of the star that exploded.

Judy Schmidt took these images, processed them to have consistent alignment and scale, and assembled them into this animation. The supernova is the red, rapidly fading star at the centre, and the light echo is the blue ring propagating outward through the interstellar medium. Due to the geometry of the reflection of the shell of light with respect to the observer, light echoes can appear to expand faster than the speed of light, an illusion called superluminal motion. The first frame in the animation is an archive image taken in 2010, before the supernova.