Sitting 6,500 light-years from Earth, in the constellation Taurus, the Crab Nebula, formed as a result of a supernova explosion, isn’t actually as far as you might think. By Tanvi Jain
First spotted by Chinese astronomers in 1054, Crab Nebula appeared to them in Five Chariots constellation. Later some Persian astronomers also noticed the guest star as very bright. However, modern-day New Mexico’s Chaco people depicted it as a carving on a cliff.
This spectacle lasted for two years, but slowly faded with time. Its disappearance from the cosmic light created ruckus in the world of astronomy. However, after much struggle and failed attempts by astronomers around the world trying to figure out what led to this sudden disappearance, the star was forgotten as just another ‘unexplained mystery of the universe’.
Today, a millennium later, the Crab Nebula appears as a fuzzy patch in the sky and can be spotted easily with a telescope or even a binocular. It’s actually a nebula that got the name Crab Nebula because to the 19th-century astronomers, it appeared like a crab. However, it’s nowhere close to a crab but is very beautiful instead.
The Crab Nebula is basically a result of a fatal cosmic explosion, one of the most powerful explosions in the known universe, that’s even capable of outshining an entire galaxy for a few weeks. Extreme energies, deadly radiation, and numerous shock waves are a few characteristics that define Crab Nebulla.
At the centre of Crab Nebula lies a pulsar—a neutron star, as big as the Sun, that energises the entire system.
Last month, NASA had also released a video created by astronomers and visualisation specialists from its Universe of Learning programme, by combining visible, infrared and X-ray vision of Crab Nebula. The images shown in the four-minute video were from the Chandra X-ray Observatory and the Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes.
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