New: Watch NASA’s Colorful 3D Visualization of the Crab Nebula Using Data from “Great Observatories” Hubble, Spitzer, and Chandra
NASA astronomers combined forces with visualization specialists to create a three-dimensional video of what it looks like deep inside the Crab Nebula, according to a news release from the NASA Hubble Site.
The Crab Nebula is the remnant of a supernova in the constellation Taurus that is – thus far – the brightest astronomical event in recorded history. It appeared as a "guest star" in the sky shining six times more brightly than Venus and was visible during the day for nearly a month in the year 1054 AD and remained visible in the night sky for approximately two more years.
Visualization specialists partnered with astronomers to merge the visible light, infrared light, and X-ray imaging from the NASA Hubble Telescope, Spitzer Telescope, and Chandra X-ray Observatory to construct a three-dimensional look at the Crab Nebula.
The video begins by showing us what the supernova would have looked like from Earth, then dives 6,500 light-years deep into space to bring us to the Crab Nebula. There, the visualization shows us how scientists use visible light to deduce the chemicals present and explains why the nebula has such vivid colors.
Combining these wavelengths into a multi-layered image creates the dynamic photo of the nebula that we know today. Isolating oxygen, for example, shows up as yellow. Sulfur, on the other hand, lights up bright green.
Then, the video shows us what the Crab Nebula looks through the eyes of Spitzer in infrared. The heart of the nebula can only be seen by the Chandra X-Ray Observatory, however. Deep inside lurks a pulsar: a volatile type of spinning neutron star that shoots out two polar jets of particles. This pulsar powers and illuminates the entire nebula – acting as a sort of light bulb by generating most of the energy these telescopes pick up.
Watch the video for yourself here – it really is spectacular.