Shannon Vavra May 13, 2017
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Telescopes get a new visual on the Crab Nebula

G. Dubner (IAFE, CONICET-University of Buenos Aires) et al.; NRAO/AUI/NSF; A. Loll et al.; T. Temim et al.; F. Seward et al.; Chandra/CXC; Spitzer/JPL-Caltech; XMM-Newton/ESA; and Hubble / STScI

An amazing new image of the Crab Nebula, which is made up of the remnants of a bright supernova explosion that Chinese and other astronomers originally observed as a star in 1054, has been created by combining data from telescopes around the world.

Distance matters: The Crab Nebula is 6,500 light-years away from Earth — but NASA reports if it were 50 light-years away it would have irradiated Earth and killed off life at the time.

Why it looks the way it does: Neutrons at the center of the mass (called a pulsar), fast-moving particles coming from the pulsar, and the surrounding material that came from the original supernova explosion itself give the nebula it's unique shape.