M1: The Crab Nebula

Click on image for larger version.

Like few other celestial objects, the Crab nebula displays the death of a star in all of its beauty. Both colorful and convoluted filaments of gas expand violently away from the origin of the explosion. The cataclysmic end for this star was observed in 1054 AD by any of humanity that cared to look skyward- it could be seen even the day for months! In the heart of the nebula lies the dense collapsed remnant of the star- a pulsar. Weighing in at the mass of the sun- but only six miles across- this ball of condensed matter spins 30 times a second and releases tremendous amounts of energy. At a distance of 7000 light years this explosion went off safely- so that now we can observe this 10 light year cloud of glowing gas (I often describe this as "star guts" to the public.)

Of the two stars in the very center of the nebula, the one on the bottom is the pulsar.

Please click here to see a color animation! The blinking image (animated GIF) that will appear on your screen is a set of two images. The bluer image is a film image taken at the 4 meter telescope back in 1973. Note how the gas continues to rapidly expand (compare to the stars in the image). A few stars in the image also shift- this may be due to the proper motion of these stars. (The pulsar also shifts a little bit).


20in RC Optical Systems telescope Operating at f/8.4
Paramount ME Robotic Telescope Mount
SBIG ST10XME CCD camera with color filter wheel

L R G B color production was used to create this image.

Luminance = 90 minutes binned 1x1
Red = 30 minutes binned 2x2
Green = 30 minutes binned 2x2
Blue = 30 minutes binned 2x2

  • The software Mira (Axiom Research) was used to register the data components of the color image and generate the registered images of the animation which were at vastly differring plate scales.
  • One iteration of L-R deconvolution (sharpening) algorithm using CCDsharp was applied to the luminance image.

  • The AO unit was used to acquire this image.
  • Digital Development (DDP) via Maxim/DL was also used in order to display the the very dim and very bright details of the image simultaneously.

  • Minimum credit line: Paul Mortfield and Dietmar Kupke/Flynn Haase/NOAO/AURA/NSF

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    Updated: 10/07/2003