Today’s Astronomy Picture of the Day focuses on an old favourite of mine, The Crab Nebula!
The Crab Nebula is the messy result of a supernova which was seen on earth as it exploded in the year 1054 AD and is filled with mysterious fibrous shapes, looking like the Iris of an eye.
The Crab Nebula is relatively unique in its make-up and the filaments are not only incredibly intricate, they appear to have less mass than expelled in the original supernova and are also travelling at a higher speed than would be expected from a free explosion, a mystery!
The image above, taken by Hubble shows that the Crab Nebula spans approximately 10 light-years from end to end.
In the nebula’s very centre lies a Pulsar, a Neutron star with as much mass as our Sun, but only the physical size of a small town. The Crab Pulsar rotates about 30 times each second, sending out burst of radiation that crosses the Earth like a Lighthouse light crosses a ship, the radiation pulses at a highly stable rate, giving the star type its name and making Pulsars some of the most reliable clocks in the cosmos!