Tech UPTechnologyThe Crab Nebula, in 3D

The Crab Nebula, in 3D

A team of astronomers and visualization specialists from NASA’s Universe of Learning program have used images from NASA’s Chandra, Hubble, and Spitzer X-ray Observatory space telescopes to create a 3D rendering of the Crab Nebula located in the constellation of Taurus. And the result is spectacular.

In the year 1054, Chinese sky watchers thought that a “new star” had appeared in the sky; it became the brightest stellar event observed in recorded history. This “guest star”, as they described it, was so bright that they could stare at it in the night sky for almost a month. It wasn’t until the 1900s that experts realized that the nebula was the surviving relic of supernova 1054, the explosion of a massive star . Now, having this 3D rendering of the Crab Nebula is quite a sight.

“With this scientific interpretation, we want to help people understand the nested and interconnected geometry of the Crab Nebula. The interaction of the multi-wavelength observations illuminates all of these structures. Without combining X-rays, infrared, and visible light, you don’t get the complete picture, “explains Frank Summers, a visualization scientist at the Space Telescope Science Institute.

The new data has revealed that the nebula is not a classic supernova remnant as was commonly thought, but rather a pulsar or plerion wind nebula, in which the internal region of the system consists of low-temperature gas that is heated up to thousands of degrees by high-energy synchrotron radiation.

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