| 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).
|L R G B color production was used to create this image.||
Minimum credit line: Paul Mortfield and Dietmar Kupke/Flynn Haase/NOAO/AURA/NSF
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