Constellations :: Home to Wonder

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WHO: The Crab Nebula is a supernova remnant in the Milky Way Galaxy.

WHAT: The Crab contains a powerful "pulsar wind nebula," the result of energetic particles and magnetic fields expelled from a pulsar, the dense core of what was once a massive star.

WHERE: Found in the constellation Taurus, the "bull," the Crab Nebula is about 6,000 light years from Earth. Taurus is visible during the winter in the Northern Hemisphere.
WHEN: Chinese astronomers, and possibly others elsewhere in the world, noted the appearance of the Crab supernova in the sky in 1054 A.D.

HOW: Pulsars are rapidly spinning objects so dense that a mass equal to that of the Sun is packed into a diameter of about 12 miles (the Sun is 870,000 miles across). The pulsars’ rapid spin combines with their ultra-strong magnetic fields to create powerful generators, forming pulsar wind nebulas that extend over many light years.

WHY: By studying how pulsars transfer their rotational energy into their surroundings, astronomers are able to better understand objects ranging from newly formed stars to disks around supermassive black holes.
Crab Nebula X-ray
X-rays from
NASA's Chandra

Crab Nebula Optical
Optical data
from NASA's Hubble

Crab Nebula Infrared
Infrared emision
from NASA's Spitzer
Cas A
Cats Eye
Centaurus A