Hubble Heritage Archive: Veil Nebula Supernova Remnant, NGC 6960

The text and images in this article were originally published on September 24, 2015, and reflect information about NGC 6960 available at that time.

HST 25th Anniversary Special: Hubble Zooms in on the Veil Nebula

NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has unveiled in stunning detail a small section of the expanding remains of a massive star that exploded about 8,000 years ago.

Called the Veil Nebula, the debris is one of the best-known supernova remnants, deriving its name from its delicate, draped filamentary structures. The entire nebula is 110 light-years across, covering six full moons on the sky as seen from Earth, and resides about 2,100 light-years away in the constellation Cygnus, the Swan.

This view is a mosaic of six Hubble pictures of a small area roughly two light-years across, covering only a tiny fraction of the nebula’s vast structure.

This close-up look unveils wisps of gas, which are all that remain of what was once a star 20 times more massive than our sun. The fast-moving blast wave from the ancient explosion is plowing into a wall of cool, denser interstellar gas, emitting light. The nebula lies along the edge of a large bubble of low-density gas that was blown into space by the dying star prior to its self-detonation.

The image shows an incredible array of structures and detail from the collision between the blast wave and the gas and dust that make up the cavity wall. The nebula resembles a crumpled bed sheet viewed from the side. The bright regions are where the shock wave is encountering relatively dense material or where the “bed sheet” ripples are viewed edge on.

In this image, red corresponds to the glow of hydrogen, green from sulfur, and blue from oxygen. The bluish features, outlining the cavity wall, appear smooth and arched in comparison to the fluffy green and red structures. The red glow is from cooler gas that was excited by the shock collision at an earlier time and has subsequently diffused into a more chaotic structure. A few thin, crisp-looking, red filaments arise after gas is swept into the shock wave at speeds of nearly 1 million miles an hour, so fast that it could travel from Earth to the moon in 15 minutes.

Astronomers are comparing these new images to images taken by Hubble in 1997. This comparison allows scientists to study how the nebula has expanded since it was photographed over 18 years ago.

The data of the Veil Nebula were taken in April, 2015 with the WFC3 instrument. This image is being released as the third in a series of Hubble images that celebrate the 25th anniversary of the deployment of the Hubble Space Telescope in April 1990. The Eagle Nebula, M16, was released in January 2015, and Westerlund 2 was released in April 2015.

Featured Image Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

Fast Facts about NGC 6960

About this Object

Object Name:Veil Nebula, NGC 6960, Cygnus Loop
Object Description:Supernova Remnant
Position (J2000.0):

RA: 20h 45m 40s
Dec: +30° 58′ 30″
Constellation:Cygnus
Distance:2,100 light-years (640 parsecs)

About the Data

Data Description:The image of the Veil Nebula was created from Hubble data from proposals 14056: Hubble Heritage Team, PI: Z. Levay, M. Mutchler, J. Mack, S. Meyett, L. Frattare, C. Christian, J. Green, and M. Livio (STScI/AURA), and K. Noll (NASA/GSFC). Special thanks to W. Blair (JHU/STScI) and S. Porter (JHU) for their contributions.
Instrument:WFC3/UVIS
Filters:F502N ([O III]), F657N (H-alpha+[N II]), F673N ([S II]), F555W (V), and F814W (I)
Dates:April 14–17, 2015

About this Image

Credit:NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)
Release Date:September 24, 2015
Colors:This image is a composite of separate exposures acquired by the WFC3/UVIS instrument. Several filters were used to sample various wavelengths. The color results from assigning different hues (colors) to each monochromatic (grayscale) image associated with an individual filter. In this case, the assigned colors are:

F502N ([O III]) – blue
F657N (Hα + [N II]) – red
F673N ([S II]) – green
F555W (V) – blue
F814W (I) – red

Additional Images of NGC 6960

Additional Information on NGC 6960

Lifting the Veil

Few astronomical objects change dramatically in a human’s lifetime. We were fortunate that a portion of the 2015 Hubble WFC3 image was observed using Hubble’s WFPC2 camera back in 1997. At the tremendous distance of the Cygnus Loop, roughly 2,100 light-years away, subtle motions of several shock fronts are visible over the 18 years span.

Veil Nebula Supernova Remnant in Hydrogen Emission


A composite of both main (WFC3/UVIS) and parallel (ACS/WFC) observations

Release Videos

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