Stunning space photo of 'cartwheel galaxy' hides a horrifying secret – can you spot it?

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THE European Space Observatory has shared a stunning new image of a stellar event in the Cartwheel galaxy.

In December 2021, astronomers photographed the Cartwheel galaxy only to notice a stellar explosion in the bottom left of the region.

Researchers used the ESO's New Technology Telescope (NTT) in Chile to capture the image of the supernova in the spiral galaxy, which is located about 500 million light-years from Earth in the constellation Sculptor.

A supernova describes the violent explosion (or death) of a star when it reaches the end of its evolution.

The star's luminosity after eruption increases millions of times its normal level and can cause a star "to shine brighter than its entire host galaxy," the ESO said in a statement.

This particular stellar event has been designated SN2021afdx and is classified as a type II supernova, which typically occurs in the spiral arms of galaxies.

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Type II supernovae differ from other types in that they feature hydrogen in their chemical composition following their eruption.

The light that emanates from a supernova can be visible for months, or even years after the star has erupted.

Along with an intense amount of light, the stellar explosion also shoots material across space.

"Supernovae are one of the reasons astronomers say we are all made of stardust," the ESO said.

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"They sprinkle the surrounding space with heavy elements forged by the progenitor star, which may end up being part of later generations of stars, the planets around them, and life that may exist in those planets," they added.

After comparing the 2021 images of the Cartwheel Galaxy to similar ones taken in August of 2014, the ESO astronomers say this explosion happened relatively recently.

"The image on the left, taken in August 2014 by the Multi Unit Spectroscopic Explorer (MUSE) mounted on ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT), shows the galaxy before this supernova took place," the ESO writes.

The researchers also cross-referenced their images with other space agency observatories, such as Nasa's Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System (ATLAS) in Hawaii, to confirm their findings.

"Detecting and studying these unpredictable events requires international collaboration," the ESO noted.

The first time SN2021afdx was observed was in November 2021 by the ATLAS survey.

Shortly after it was spotted by ePESSTO+, the advanced Public ESO Spectroscopic Survey for Transient Objects.

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