Hubble views a tranquil galaxy with an explosive past

The lazily winding spiral arms of the spectacular galaxy NGC 976 fill the frame of this image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. This spiral galaxy lies around 150 million light-years from the Milky Way in the constellation Aries. Despite its tranquil appearance, NGC 976 has played host to one of the most violent astronomical phenomena known – a supernova explosion. These cataclysmically violent events take place at the end of the lives of massive stars and can outshine entire galaxies for a short period. While supernovae mark the deaths of massive stars, they are also responsible for the creation of heavy elements that are incorporated into later generations of stars and planets.