The Crab Nebula

In 1054, observers around the world reported the appearance of a “new star” in the direction of the constellation Taurus. The remnant of that supernova is called the Crab Nebula, and it is powered by a quickly spinning, highly magnetized neutron star called a pulsar. The pulsar was formed when the massive star ran out of its nuclear fuel and collapsed. The combination of rapid rotation and a strong magnetic field in the Crab generates an intense electromagnetic field that creates jets of matter and anti-matter moving away from both the north and south poles of the pulsar and an intense wind flowing out in the equatorial direction.

This composite image of the nebula was created with data from the Chandra X-ray Observatory (blue and white), the Hubble Space Telescope (purple), and the Spitzer Space Telescope (pink).

Image Credit: NASA

An Eye in the Sky

ngc6751_hst_960Planetary nebulae appear simple, round, and planet-like in small telescopes. However, images from the Hubble Space Telescope have become well known for showing these fluorescent gas shrouds of dying Sun-like stars to possess a staggering variety of detailed symmetries and shapes. This composite color Hubble image of NGC 6751, the Glowing Eye Nebula, is a lovely example of a complex planetary nebula. Winds and radiation from the intensely hot central star (140,000 °C) have created the nebula’s streamer-like features. The nebula is about 0.8 light-years across, roughly 600 times the diameter of our Solar System. It’s 6,500 light-years distant in the constellation Aquila (the Eagle).

Image Credit: NASA

Mergers and Acquisitions

NGC 6052 is a pair of colliding galaxies located about 230 million light-years away in the constellation of Hercules. The pair were first discovered in 1784 by William Herschel, and they were thought to be a single irregular galaxy because of their odd shape. However, NGC 6052 actually consists of two galaxies in the process of colliding.

Image Credit: ESA / NASA

The Jellyfish Nebula

The Jellyfish Nebula (aka IC443)) is a supernova remnant in the constellation Gemini. It’s roughly 5,000 light years from Earth. IC 443 may be the remains of a supernova that occurred between 3,000 to 30,000 years ago. The same supernova event probably created a neutron star known as CXOU J061705.3+222127.

Image Credit: NASA