Questions for ‘After 30 years, this supernova is still sharing secrets’

This image of supernova 1987A combines data from the Hubble Space Telescope and the Chandra X-ray Observatory.

ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO)/A. Angelich. Visible light image: the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. X-Ray image: The NASA Chandra X-Ray Observatory

To accompany feature “After 30 years, this supernova is still sharing secrets”


Before Reading: 

1.  When you look at the sky at night, what can you see? Why does using a telescope or binoculars change what you are able to see?

2.  What is a star?

During Reading: 

1.  What did Ian Shelton spot on February 23, 1987?

2.  What is a supernova?

3.  What is the difference between type 1a and type 2 supernovas?

4.  What happens when a star’s core runs out of hydrogen?

5.  What is a neutron star?

6.  Why do neutrinos from a supernova arrive on Earth before the flash of light from the supernova can be seen?

7.  When was the Hubble Space Telescope launched?

8.  How fast is the central ring around SN 1987a expanding?

9.  What are two reasons that may explain why scientists have been unable to find SN 1987a’s neutron star?

10.  Why are researchers interested in the dust left behind by SN 1987a?

After Reading: 

1.  Consider the story at the beginning of this article about how Ian Shelton discovered SN 1987a. How would that story be different if the discovery were made today?

2.  What may have happened to any planets circling the star that became SN 1987a? Is this something that people on Earth should worry about? Explain your answer using evidence from the article.


1.  SN 1987a is located about 166,000 light-years from Earth. If you drove a car that distance at 100 kilometers (62 miles) per hour, how long would it take you to get there? Show your work.