Crab Nebula

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Crab Nebula is a supernova remnant and pulsar wind nebula in the constellation of Taurus. It is part of the Perseus Arm of the Milky Way Galaxy. Crab Nebula catalogue designations are M1, NGC 1952 and Taurus A.

Crab Nebula Picture

The Crab Nebula is one of the most studied objects in the sky, truly making it a cosmic icon.

Location

The Crab Nebula is located at a distance of about 6,500 light years from Earth.

Size

The Crab Nebula has a diameter of 11 light years and expands at a rate of about 1,500 kilometers per second.

At the centre of the nebula lies the Crab Pulsar, a neutron star (or spinning ball of neutrons), 28–30 km across, which emits pulses of radiation from gamma rays to radio waves with a spin rate of 30.2 times per second. The Crab Nebula was the first astronomical object identified with a historical supernova explosion.

The nebula acts as a source of radiation for studying celestial bodies that occult it. In the 1950s and 1960s, the Sun’s corona was mapped from observations of the Crab’s radio waves passing through it and in 2003, the thickness of the atmosphere of Saturn’s moon Titan was measured as it blocked out X-rays from the nebula.

The cloudy remnants of SN 1054 are now known as the Crab Nebula. The nebula is also referred to as Messier 1 or M1, being the first Messier Object catalogued in 1758.

History

Crab Nebula is visible through small telescopes, which has allowed astronomers to observe its growth and evolution since the supernovae that created it became visible in 1054 CE. A pulsar was found in the center of the Crab in 1968.

A star’s spectacular death in the constellation Taurus was observed on Earth as the supernova of 1054 A.D. Now, almost a thousand years later, a super dense object called a neutron star, left behind by the explosion is seen spewing out a blizzard of high-energy particles into the expanding debris field known as the Crab Nebula. X-ray data from Chandra provide significant clues to the workings of this mighty cosmic “generator,” which is producing energy at the rate of 100,000 suns.


Did you know?

* In the Doctor Who tv series, the Master says in the 3rd Doctor serial Colony in Space that the Crab Nebula was the result of the Uxariean race testing the Doomsday Weapon, which is capable of making stars go supernova.

* Other interesting Nebula: Tarantula, Rosette.


Crab Nebula Links:

NASA’s Great Observatories’ View of the Crab Nebula: Info and Picture source (article dated 23 Sept 2009).

Crab Nebula’s gamma-ray flare mystifies astronomers: BBC by Jason Palmer (11 May 2011)


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