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Crab Nebula Animations
A Tour of the Crab Nebula
(Credit: NASA/CXC/A. Hobart)
[Runtime: 02:36]

With closed-captions (at YouTube)

The year 2019 marks the 20th anniversary of the launch of NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory into space. The Crab Nebula was one of the first objects that Chandra examined with its sharp X-ray vision, and it has been a frequent target of the telescope ever since.

There are many reasons that the Crab Nebula is such a well-studied object. For example, it is one of a handful of cases where there is strong historical evidence for when the star exploded. Having this definitive timeline helps astronomers understand the details of the explosion and its aftermath.

In the case of the Crab, observers in several countries reported the appearance of a "new star" in 1054 A.D. in the direction of the constellation Taurus. Much has been learned about the Crab in the centuries since. Today, astronomers know that the Crab Nebula is powered by a quickly spinning, highly magnetized neutron star called a pulsar, which was formed when a massive star ran out of its nuclear fuel and collapsed. The combination of rapid rotation and a strong magnetic field in the Crab generates an intense electromagnetic field that creates jets of matter and anti-matter moving away from both the north and south poles of the pulsar. Astronomers also see an intense wind flowing out in the equatorial direction.

A new composite image adds to a scientific legacy, spanning nearly two decades, between Chandra and the Crab Nebula. We look forward to what the Crab Nebula will reveal next.

A Quick Look at the Crab Nebula
(Credit: NASA/CXC/A. Hobart)
[Runtime: 01:08]

The Crab Nebula is the result of a bright supernova explosion seen by Chinese and other astronomers in the year 1054 A.D.

Since it was launched aboard the Space Shuttle in 1999, the Chandra X-ray Observatory has looked at the Crab many times.

X-ray data reveal a spinning, super-magnetic dense star that creates jets of matter and antimatter and a blizzard of energetic particles.

A new image combines X-rays from Chandra (blue and white) with optical data from Hubble (purple) and infrared data from Spitzer (pink).

This composite adds to a scientific legacy, spanning nearly two decades, between Chandra and the Crab Nebula.

Return to the Crab Nebula (December 19, 2017)