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Vela Supernova Remnant Nebula - Astrophotography

Updated: May 17, 2023

Supernova remnants are the leftover results from the explosions of massive stars into supernovae. They are some of the most beautiful objects in the night sky, and can span to gigantic sizes. One of the most famous supernova remnants in the sky is located in the constellation Vela, and is only visible from the southern hemisphere.

Object Designation: Vela SNR

Also known as: The Vela Supernova Remnant

Constellation: Vela

Object Type: Supernova Remnant

Distance: 815 light-years away

Magnitude: 12.0

Discovery: 1968

In this post, we will tell you all about the beautiful Vela supernova remnant, and show you our attempt at processing 17 hours of data on that object.


Vela Supernova Remnant Wide-Field Astrophotography

Wide field Astrophotography setup

The constellation Vela does not rise in our skies because we live too far to the north. This means it is simply impossible for us to use our backyard telescope to capture this object.

Like some other southern deep sky objects you may have seen on our website, like the Statue of Liberty Nebula, NGC 1365, or the Chamaeleon Cloud Complex,

we decided to use Telescope Live which allows anyone to easily use a remote telescope in several different locations in the world.

The data we processed below was taken with the telescope pictured above, from a location where Vela rises high enough to be imaged: Australia!

The picture below totals 17 hours of exposure time and was processed using PixInsight.

The Vela Supernova Remnant shows so many filaments. Click for High-resolution.

Vela Supernova remnant Astrophotography

Want to process your images following our own workflow? Get our PixInsight Processing Guide!


Camera: FLI PL16803

Telescope: Takahashi FSQ-106

Mount: Software Bisque Paramount MX+

Processing: Pixinsight, with RC-Astro plugins


Total Exposure Time: 17 hours

Exposure Time per frame: 5 minutes

Filters: SHO


What is the Vela Supernova Remnant?

The Vela Supernova Remnant is a massive object mostly made up of hydrogen alpha and oxygen III in the constellation Vela. It was created from the supernova explosion of a massive star, approximately 11,000 to 12,300 years ago.

The Vela Supernova Remnant was born from a Type II Supernova. Type II Supernovae occur when a star, between 8 and 50 times the mass of our Sun, explodes violently and contains hydrogen in its spectrum composition.

The Vela Supernova Remnant is one of the closest supernova remnants to Earth, and has some of the brightest and largest X-ray features in the sky.

The Jellyfish Nebula (IC 443) and the famous Crab Nebula (Messier 1) seen above, are also both Type II supernova remnants.


How to find the Vela Supernova Remnant in the Sky?

The Vela Supernova Remnant can be found approximately 800 light-years away in the constellation Vela.

The best time to photograph the Vela Supernova Remnant is in Spring, when Vela gets to its highest point in the sky. Remember, you will need to be located in the southern hemisphere to be able to image this target.

The whole supernova remnant can be seen circled on the map below.

How to find the Vela supernova remnant in the night sky, map

Other popular deep sky objects near the Vela Supernova Remnant include:

  • NGC 3201

  • The Gum Nebula

  • Eta Carinae Nebula

  • Omicron Velorum Cluster

The constellation Vela is located close to Puppis, Carina, and Pyxis. The four were once a single constellation, named Argo Navis and outlining a big ship. Carina represented the keel, Puppis the deck, Vela the sails, and Pyxis the mariner's compass.

Argo Navis was by far the largest constellation in the sky, and remained that way until the 20th century when it was divided into smaller sections. To learn more about this and all 88 constellations, be sure to check out The Constellations Handbook!

Drawing of the Argo Navis constellation
Drawing of the Argo Navis constellation

To find the Vela Supernova Remnant, look for the two bright stars in Vela "Suhail" and "Suhail al Muhlif". Your target is located exactly in between these two stars.

It is not possible to spot this object with your naked eye, and do not expect to be impressed when looking through a telescope either. The best way to experience this large supernova remnant is through astrophotography!


How far is the Vela Supernova Remnant?

The Vela Supernova Remnant was born from a supernova that happened in our Milky Way galaxy. The nebula is believed to be located approximately 815 light-years away from Earth (250 parsecs).

Location of the Vela pulsar and Vela Supernova Remnant in the Milky Way galaxy

At 815 light-years away, the Vela Supernova Remnant is one of the closest supernova remnants in our night sky.

For comparison, the famous Crab Nebula supernova remnant (Messier 1) is located 6,500 light-years away from the Solar System.


The Vela Supernova Remnant by NASA

NASA published an impressive mosaic image of the Vela Supernova Remnant and surrounding gasses on January 10, 2019. The image below shows a field of view 16 degrees wide, and is a mosaic made up of 200 frames.

The image includes the Vela Supernova Remnant of course, as well as the Gum Nebula, the Pencil Nebula, several star clusters, and the Vela pulsar.

Vela Supernova Remnant mosaic NASA
Vela Supernova Remnant mosaic. Credit: Robert Gendler, Roberto Colombari, Digitized Sky Survey (POSS II)

The Vela Pulsar

The Vela pulsar is the leftover of the neutron star that went supernova. The massive explosion left behind an incredibly dense pulsar, which expels a long cosmic jet from one of its rotational poles, as a well as counter jet. The particles coming out of the jet get expelled at 70% of the speed of light.

Vela Pulsar picture by NASA

The Vela pulsar is located 1,000 light years away from the Solar System, and has a diameter of 12 miles.

The pulsar and its jets can be seen on the image on the right, taken by NASA's Chandra X-ray observatory.

The Vela Pulsar is seen as the tiny white dot in the center, swimming in hot orange and yellow gas. The long jet on the upper right is the counter jet.