Hubble Captures the "Moving Heart" of the Crab Nebula

Thursday, 07 July 2016 - 12:12PM
Thursday, 07 July 2016 - 12:12PM
Hubble Captures the "Moving Heart" of the Crab Nebula
The Crab Nebula is one of the most visually stunning (and most-photographed) celestial phenomena out there. But although we had many beautiful photographs of the outer region, we didn't know very much about the inner portion of the nebula. Until now, that is, since Hubble has captured the Crab Nebula's "moving heart" in all its glory:

Crab Nebula

According to Hubble's website, this is a view of the Crab Nebula that has never been seen before. Unlike other images taken of the object, this is a composite of three different images taken by the telescope approximately ten years apart, meaning it captures the inside of the nebula over the course of three decades. It shows that the center of the nebula contains a neutron star, an extremely hot and dense object thought to be the remains of the core of the original star.

A neutron star has very strange and exotic properties as a result of its density (it has approximately the mass of the Sun condensed into an object tens of kilometers across), including a gravitational field that is 2×10^11 times stronger than Earth's and an incredibly fast spin. The neutron star at the center of the Crab Nebula, for example, rotates about 30 times per second. 

The region around the neutron star is extremely volatile; the rainbow effect in the time lapse image is the result of the material around the neutron star moving over time. The red represents the ionized gas, which forms both cavities and filaments, and the blue represents the radiation emitted from the magnetic field of the neutron star, which is in turn caused by electrons spinning in the magnetic field at nearly the speed of light.
Science
NASA

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