Beautiful images accompany a quick tour of the Crab Nebula in two new videos released by NASA. One video showcases a stunning new composite image of the nebula, while the other highlights the relationship between NASA's Chandra Observatory and the nebula whose workings it helped uncover.
Unlike with most nebulas, the supernova that gave rise to the Crab Nebula was actually observed. A "new star" appeared just above the southern horn of Taurus around July 4, 1054, and was witnessed by people across the world. Having this timeline is quite a boon for astronomers trying to understand the explosion and its aftermath, and the Crab has become one of the best studied nebulas, according to the video.
NASA's Chandra Observatory has literal X-ray vision — it detects X-rays emanating from objects in space — and the Crab Nebula is one of the first objects the spacecraft set its sights on. Scientists now know that the energy emanating from the nebula is powered by a rapidly spinning neutron star called a pulsar. These stellar remnants can whip up tremendous magnetic fields, which are responsible for the radiation detected by Chandra. [See more amazing photos of the Crab Nebula]
A new image of the Crab combines light from X-rays, through the visible spectrum, and into infrared. The swirly, psychedelic image comes courtesy of three of NASA’s orbiting telescopes: Chandra, Hubble, and Spitzer.