A combination of images from radio, infrared, optical, ultraviolet and gamma-ray observatories have been combined to create this unique, comprehensive view of the Crab Nebula: the result of a star that exploded almost 1000 years ago. Image credit: NASA, ESA, G. Dubner (IAFE, CONICET-University of Buenos Aires) et al.; A. Loll et al.; T. Temim et al.; F. Seward et al.; VLA/NRAO/AUI/NSF; Chandra/CXC; Spitzer/JPL-Caltech; XMM-Newton/ESA; and Hubble/STScI.
“The origin and evolution of life are connected in the most intimate way with the origin and evolution of the stars.” -Carl Sagan
The Crab Nebula is one of the most interesting and compelling objects in the entire night sky. In the year 1054, a supernova went off in the constellation of Taurus, where it became brighter than anything other than the Sun and Moon in the sky. Some 700 years later, astronomers discovered the remnant of that supernova: the Crab Nebula.
An optical composite/mosaic of the Crab Nebula as taken with the Hubble Space Telescope. The different colors correspond to different elements, and reveal the presence of hydrogen, oxygen, silicon and more, all segregated by mass. Image credit: NASA, ESA, J. Hester and A. Loll (Arizona State University).
For nearly a millennium, it’s been expanding at 0.5% the speed of light, and the nebula now spans more than 11 light years across. With a neutron star at its core and a shell with incredibly intricate structures, it’s one of our greatest cosmic clues to where the Universe’s enriched, heavy elements came from.
The VLA view of the Crab Nebula showcases a view of this supernova remnant unlike any other we’ve seen. Image credit: NRAO/AUI/NSF.
With the advent of a new, five-wavelength composite, we’re seeing this nebula as never before, and closing in on the last of this supernova’s puzzles.