Focus-Science and Technology - - Discoveries -

Thou­sands of years ago, thou­sands of light-years from Earth in the Perseus Arm of the Milky Way, a su­per­giant star ex­ploded in spec­tac­u­lar fash­ion. The ex­plo­sion was so vi­o­lent that when the light from it reached Earth in 1054, it out­shone all the stars and plan­ets in the sky.

In the 19th Cen­tury, fol­low­ing the in­ven­tion of the tele­scope, the rem­nants of the event were iden­ti­fied by An­glo-Ir­ish as­tronomer Wil­liam Par­sons. It be­came known as the Crab Nebula thanks to the un­usual shape of the sketch Par­sons made of it. Now, us­ing data from five dif­fer­ent tele­scopes, astronomers have pro­duced an im­age that shows the nebula in spec­tac­u­lar, un­prece­dented de­tail.

The im­age is a com­pos­ite of data that spans al­most the en­tire elec­tro­mag­netic spec­trum, from ra­dio waves de­tected by the Karl G Jan­sky Very Large Ar­ray (VLA) to X-rays as seen by the or­bit­ing Chan­dra X-ray Ob­ser­va­tory, with in­frared from the Spitzer Space Tele­scope, vis­i­ble light cour­tesy of the Hub­ble Space Tele­scope and ul­tra­vi­o­let from ESA’s X-ray Multi-Mir­ror Mis­sion (also known as XMM-New­ton) in-be­tween. It is hoped that analysis of all this dif­fer­ent data will help astronomers gain new in­sights into the com­plex physics of the nebula.

“Com­par­ing th­ese new im­ages, made at dif­fer­ent wave­lengths, is pro­vid­ing us with a wealth of new de­tail about the Crab Nebula,” said as­tronomer Glo­ria Dub­ner. “Though the Crab has been stud­ied ex­ten­sively for years, we still have much to learn about it.”

This im­age was cre­ated us­ing data from five tele­scopes

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