This eye in space is known officially as [SBW2007] 1 but is nicknamed SBW1. It’s a nebula with a giant star at its center. The star was originally twenty times more massive than our Sun, and it is now encased in a swirling ring of purple gas, the remains its outer layers that were thrown off by violent pulsations and winds.
The star is probably destined to go supernova.
In 1987, we saw another star with striking similarities go supernova—SN 1987A. Early Hubble images of SN 1987A show similarities to SBW1. Both stars had identical debris rings of about the same size and age travelling at similar speeds; both were located in similar HII regions; and both were roughly the same brightness. SBW1 looks very much like a snapshot of SN1987A before it exploded.
SBW1 is more than 20 000 light-years away, so it will be safe to watch if the supernova goes off. If we’re very lucky, it may happen in our own lifetimes.
Image Credit: NASA