The Crab Nebula is perhaps one of the most famous nebulae known to astronomers. It is Messier 1, the first entry in the Messier Catalogue, and is located about 6,000 lightyears away from Earth.
The Crab Nebula is the remnant of a stellar explosion known as a supernova, making it an object known as a supernova remnant, and the first recorded observation of the supernova that produced the Crab Nebula comes from Chinese astronomy.
In 1054, astronomers in China noticed a ‘guest star’ that was visible for nearly a month in the daytime sky.
The Crab Nebula itself is 6 lightyears wide and was discovered by astronomer John Bevis in 1731, and was also notably observed and sketched by William Parsons, the Third Earl of Rosse, using the Leviathan telescope at Birr Castle in County Offally, Ireland.
The Crab Nebula contains a spinning neutron star known as a pulsar at its centre, which rotates about 30 times a second, sending out a pulse-like signal as observed from Earth.
This neutron star is found deep within the centre of the cosmic cloud. Electrons spinning at nearly the speed of light around the star’s magnetic field lines are what give the nebula its bright blue light.
Below are some images of the Crab Nebula sent to us by readers and astrophotographers over the years.
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