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Crab Nebula Composite Image
(Credits: X-ray: NASA/CXC/ASU/J. Hester et al.; Optical: NASA/HST/
ASU/J. Hester et al.)

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Crab Nebula:
Space Movie Reveals Shocking Secrets of the Crab Pulsar


Crab Nebula
Credit: NASA/CXC/ASU/J.Hester et al.

The Chandra images in this collage were made over a span of several months (ordered left to right, except for the close-up). They provide a stunning view of the activity in the inner region around the Crab Nebula pulsar, a rapidly rotating neutron star seen as a bright white dot near the center of the images.

A wisp can be seen moving outward at half the speed of light from the upper right of the inner ring around the pulsar. The wisp appears to merge with a larger outer ring that is visible in both X-ray and optical images.

The inner X-ray ring consists of about two dozen knots that form, brighten and fade. As a high-speed wind of matter and antimatter particles from the pulsar plows into the surrounding nebula, it creates a shock wave and forms the inner ring. Energetic shocked particles move outward to brighten the outer ring and produce an extended X-ray glow.

Enormous electrical voltages generated by the rotating, highly magnetized neutron star accelerate particles outward along its equator to produce the pulsar wind. These pulsar voltages also produce the polar jets seen spewing X-ray emitting matter and antimatter particles perpendicular to the rings.

Fast Facts for Crab Nebula:
Credit  NASA/CXC/ASU/J.Hester et al.
Scale  Close up image is 0.8 arcmin, other 7 images are 1.6 arcmin.
Category  Supernovas & Supernova Remnants, Neutron Stars/X-ray Binaries
Coordinates (J2000)  RA 05h 34m 32s | Dec +22 0.0' 52
Constellation  Taurus
Observation Dates  November 25 & December 18, 2000, January 9 & 31, 2001, February 21, March 15 & April 6, 2001
Observation Time  46 hours total
Obs. IDs  1995-2001
Color Code  Intensity
Instrument  ACIS
References J. Hester et al. 2002 Astrophysical Journal Letters, 577, L49.
Distance Estimate  6,500 light years from Earth
Release Date  September 19, 2002