Radio, optical and X-ray composite of the Crab Nebula
Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/ASU/J. Hester et al.; Optical: NASA/HST/ASU/J. Hester et al.; Radio: VLA/NRAO

The Crab of Many Colors

The Crab Nebula is a key object in astronomy. It was one of the few supernovae to occur in the Milky Way Galaxy in historic times, an event recorded by Chinese astronomers on July 4, 1054. The above image shows the rich variety of physical processes which occur in this supernova remnant. In this composite image, X-ray emission (detailed by the Chandra X-ray Observatory) from million degree shocked gas, matter under the influence of superstrong magnetism, and the hot material near the superdense pulsar at the center of the image, is shown in blue; optical emission (as seen by the Hubble Space Telescope) from dense material is shown in green; and farther out, radio emission (as imaged by the Very Large Array) from electrons spiralling around magnetic fields is shown in red. The nebula is far from static. The Crab Nebula is far from static; material ejected from the pulsar (in the form of 2 jets visible in the X-ray image) move out into the diffuse gas at nearly the speed of light; and fast moving wisps of material (like ripples on water) spread outward in rings from the pulsar, as seen in both the Chandra and HST images. Using these powerful observatories, astronomers have even constructed an extraordinary new movie of the dynamic region surrounding the Crab nebula pulsar.

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Page Author: Dr. Michael F. Corcoran
Last modified September 23, 2002