The Heart of the Crab

The supernova explosion that formed the Crab Nebula was first seen on Earth in the year 1054. In 2000, astronomers released this image of the still-evolving center of the explosion. The composite photograph was taken in colors emitted by specific elements including hydrogen (orange), nitrogen (red), sulfur (pink), and oxygen (green). The result looks a lot like a Jackson Pollock painting. The complex array of gas filaments are rushing out from the explosion at over 5,000,000 km/h. Even at that tremendous speed, it takes over 600 years to cross the 3 light year wide frame of this picture.

The rapidly spinning neutron star remnant of supernova is visible as the lower of the two bright stars near the center of the image. The Crab Nebula (aka M1) is about 6,500 light-years away in the direction the constellation of Taurus.

Image Credit: NASA

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