NGC 4981, a spiral galaxy that lies 75 million light-years away from Earth in the constellation of Virgo has witnessed not one, but two supernovae. A supernova is the last, gigantic explosion a star makes during the last phase of its evolution. This causes the appearance of a temporary ‘new’ star, which slowly fades over time. On 23 April 1968, a Type 1a supernova occurred within NGC 4981. A Type 1a supernova is a supernova that occurs when two stars are orbiting each other, with one of the stars being a white dwarf (the last remnants of a star).
Decades later, another supernova occurred with the core collapse of a massive star. In the image, NGC 4981 is not going through any explosions. The bright star observed in the centre of the galaxy is a foreground star – it is not part of NGC 4981.