An article published in “The Astrophysical Journal” describes a new research on the Crab Nebula based on images that embrace a large part of the electromagnetic spectrum because they got assembled by bringing images at different wavelengths together. These supernova remnants were portrayed by five telescopes: VLA radiotelescope (radio waves) in red, Spitzer Space Telescope (infrared) in yellow, Hubble Space Telescope (visible) in green, XMM-Newton (ultraviolet) in blue, and Chandra X-ray Observatory (X-ray) in purple.
The Crab Nebula is what remains after the supernova sighted on Earth and recorded in 1054 and is about 6,500 light-years away from Earth. At its center there’s the Crab Pulsar, also known as PSR B0531+21 or PSR J0534+2200, which has a mass approximately 1.5 times the Sun’s concentrated in a volume of about 10 kilometers (a little more than 6 miles) in diameter.
Around the pulsar there are a lot of materials, in part ejected from the star before it exploded in a supernova and in part ejected during that catastrophic event. The pulsar is a neutron star that spins once every 33 milliseconds, bringing high energy to the nebula with its powerful electromagnetic emissions.
After its discovery, which was made independently in 1731 by the English astronomer John Bevis and in 1758 by the French one Charles Messier, the studies of the Crab Nebula progressed along with the instruments available to researchers. In recent years, thanks to space telescopes covering various parts of the electromagnetic spectrum and ground-based radiotelescopes, it’s possible to observe various aspects of this nebula and all this data have been combined in this new research.
The result, as is often the case in this type of study, are breathtaking images but also new information useful to researchers to better understand certain cosmic processes. In this case, Gloria Dubner of Buenos Aires University in Argentina led a team that is studying what happens in the centuries following a supernova, one of the most energetic events in the universe with long-term consequences yet to be accurately understood.
The clip at the bottom of the article shows the various images captured by the different telescopes thet were assembled in the composite presented as an example in this research. The Crab Nebula is a complex object so it’s seen very differently at various wavelengths. It’s also a further confirmation of the reason why telescopes are specialized in various ranges of the electromagnetic spectrum and the benefit of combining the observations of different telescopes.