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February 2003

Supernova Remnant IC 443

The filamentary nebula IC 443 lies in the constellation Gemini. It is the remnant of a supernova that exploded thousands of years ago; it lies about 5,000 light years from the Earth. The arches of gas in this image are part of a much larger bubble of gas that is still expanding outward into interstellar space. As it does so, it sweeps up interstellar gas and dust, churning it up, mixing in the heavy elements produced in the explosion, and producing the filamentary structure.

The supernova that produced this nebula was very close to a molecular cloud complex - a region of interstellar space thick with dust and gas, much of which is cool enough for molecules to form. Molecular clouds are the sites of current star formation. The death of this nearby star, and the resulting compression of the surrounding material from the blast wave, may contribute to formation of new stars in the future.