A Multi-Wavelength Crab


This composite view of the Crab Nebula uses data from the Chandra X-Ray Observatory (blue and white), the Hubble Space Telescope (purple), and the Spitzer Space Telescope (pink). The nebula is the remnant of a supernova that was seen on Earth in AD 1054.

It’s powered by a pulsar, a quickly spinning neutron star  formed when a original star ran out nuclear fuel and collapsed. The combination of rapid rotation and a strong magnetic field in the Crab generates jets of matter and anti-matter moving away from the pulsar’s poles and an intense stellar wind flowing out of its equator.

Image Credit: NASA

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

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

The Heart of the Crab


Here’s NASA’s description of this video—

This video starts with a composite image of the Crab Nebula, a supernova remnant that was assembled by combining data from five telescopes spanning nearly the entire breadth of the electromagnetic spectrum: the Very Large Array, the Spitzer Space Telescope, the Hubble Space Telescope, the XMM-Newton Observatory, and the Chandra X-ray Observatory.

The video dissolves to the red-colored radio-light view that shows how a neutron star’s fierce “wind” of charged particles from the central neutron star energized the nebula, causing it to emit the radio waves. The yellow-colored infrared image includes the glow of dust particles absorbing ultraviolet and visible light. The green-colored Hubble visible-light image offers a very sharp view of hot filamentary structures that permeate this nebula. The blue-colored ultraviolet image and the purple-colored X-ray image shows the effect of an energetic cloud of electrons driven by a rapidly rotating neutron star at the center of the nebula.

Video Credit: NASA, ESA, J. DePasquale (STScI)