The Heart of the Crab

Heart of the CrabThis Hubble image peers deep into the core of the Crab Nebula, revealing its beating heart. At its center are the remnants of a supernova which sends out clock-like pulses of radiation and waves of charged particles. The neutron star at the very center of the Crab Nebula has about the same mass as the Sun, but it’s compressed into an incredibly dense sphere that is only a few miles across. Spinning 30 times a second, the neutron star ticks along, shooting out detectable beams of energy.

Image Credit: NASA / ESA

A Wide Field View of a Crab

Wide View of the Crab NebulaThe Crab Nebula (aka Messier 1, NGC 1952, and Taurus A) is the remnant of a supernova explosion which was observed by Chinese astronomers in 1054. The tangled filaments visible in this picture are the remains of the exploded star which are still expanding outwards at about 1500 km/s.

Image Credit: ESO

International Crab

International CrabThe Crab nebula is the remnant of a supernova explosion recorded by Chinese astronomers in the year 1054. This is composite view of the Crab nebula was assembled using data from the Herschel Space Observatory and the Hubble Space Telescope. Herschel is a European Space Agency (ESA) mission with important NASA contributions, and Hubble is a NASA mission with important ESA contributions.

Hubble‘s view of the nebula at visible wavelengths used three different filters sensitive to the emission from oxygen and sulphur ions and is shown here in blue. Herschel’s far-infrared image reveals the emission from dust in the nebula and is shown here in red.

Image Credit: ESA/NASA

The Crab Nebula in UV

Crab_nebula_uv_SwiftAbout 7,500 years ago, a star went supernova. The Crab Nebula is the wreckage of that supernova whose explosion was seen on Earth in the year AD 1054. The expanding cloud of gas is located 6,500 light-years away in the constellation Taurus. This false color composite of three ultraviolet images taken by the UV Optical Telescope carried on the Swift satellite highlights the hot gas in the supernova remnant. The image is constructed from exposures using these filters centered at 260 nm (red), at 225 nM (green), and centered at 193 nm (blue). (Click the image to embiggen it.)

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

A Glorious Cosmic Mess

This is the sort of glorious mess that is left when a star explodes. It’s the Crab Nebula, the result of a supernova seen in 1054 AD. The nebula’s filaments are not only tremendously complex, but appear to have less mass than expelled in the original supernova and a higher speed than expected from a free explosion. This picture was taken by the Hubble Space Telescope. It’s a false color image, the three colors chosen for scientific interest. The Crab Nebula spans about 10 light-years. There’s a pulsar at its center—a neutron star as massive as the Sun but with only few miles in diameter. The Crab Pulsar rotates about 30 times each second.

Image Credit: NASA