Astronomers have collected data from different telescopes to make a beautiful photo of the Crab Nebula. Almost the full electromagnetic spectrum can be seen: from the long radio waves by the Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array to the extremely short X-rays seen through the eyes of the Chandra X-ray observatory.
The Crab Nebula is perhaps the best known supernovarestant that exists. Nearly a thousand years ago, a star exploded in the night sky. The explosion was so clear that the remainder of the star was visible to the naked eye for 23 days in the middle of the day. In the years, decades and centuries thereafter, the mist slowly faded. Nowadays, the Crab Nebula can only be observed with good binoculars or a small amateur telescope.
The Crab Nebula is 6,500 light-years away from the earth. In the middle of the supernova remnant, a neutron star rotates around its axis thirty times (!!) every second. This neutron star influences the gas in the environment. You can clearly see this on the new photo of the Crab Nebula. Just look at the light pink whirlwind around the center.
The full spectrum
The new photo has been compiled thanks to data from five different telescopes: the Very Large Array (radio, red), the Spitzer space telescope (infrared, yellow), Hubble (visible light, green), XMM-Newton (ultraviolet, blue) and Chandra (purple, x-ray).
Because new photos have been made, astronomers have learned more about the mist. For example, there is interaction between the fast-moving particles (from the pulsar) and magnetic fields. This is comparable to the interaction between solar wind and magnetic fields in our solar system. The scientists have also found objects that were in the vicinity of the gas ball shortly before the star exploded. "Because we can now compare photos at different wavelengths, we learn a lot more about the Crab Nebula," says researcher Gloria Dubner of the University of Buenos Aires. "There is still plenty to discover."