The Crab Nebula

The video above combines views of the Crab Nebula from five observatories: the Very Large Array, the Spitzer Space Telescope, the Hubble Space Telescope, the XMM-Newton Observatory, and the Chandra X-ray Observatory. The telescopes cover a nice chunk of the the electromagnetic spectrum to build up the final image.

The product of the telescopes:

I really like the Chandra contribution, here is a look at the very center which I isolated and enlarged:

Before we get to the original caption I should mention the Crab Nebula is the very first entry in Charles Messiers famous catalog and thus has the entry of M-1. Check out the SEDS page for an excellent presentation of the history of observations.

The original caption (and thanks to the Space Telescope Science Institute:

In the summer of the year 1054 AD, Chinese astronomers saw a new “guest star,” that appeared six times brighter than Venus. So bright in fact, it could be seen during the daytime for several months.

This “guest star” was forgotten about until 700 years later with the advent of telescopes. Astronomers saw a tentacle-like nebula in the place of the vanished star and called it the Crab Nebula. Today we know it as the expanding gaseous remnant from a star that self-detonated as a supernova, briefly shining as brightly as 400 million suns. The explosion took place 6,500 light-years away. If the blast had instead happened 50 light-years away it would have irradiated Earth, wiping out most life forms.

In the late 1960s astronomers discovered the crushed heart of the doomed star, an ultra-dense neutron star that is a dynamo of intense magnetic field and radiation energizing the nebula. Astronomers therefore need to study the Crab Nebula across a broad range of electromagnetic radiation, from X-rays to radio waves.

This image combines data from five different telescopes: the VLA (radio) in red; Spitzer Space Telescope (infrared) in yellow; Hubble Space Telescope (visible) in green; XMM-Newton (ultraviolet) in blue; and Chandra X-ray Observatory (X-ray) in purple.

The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and ESA (European Space Agency). NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, manages the telescope. The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore conducts Hubble science operations. STScI is operated for NASA by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc., in Washington, D.C.

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