Hubble captures colorful complexities of Crab Nebula
(CNN) -- The Hubble Space Telescope has zoomed in on the
center of the Crab Nebula, producing an image with
unsurpassed detail of the convoluted celestial marvel,
astronomers said Thursday.
Resembling an abstract modern painting, the composite picture
highlights colorful streams of gas rushing from the heart of
the nebula at more than 3 million miles (4.8 million km) per
The explosion of a star 10 times as massive as the sun
spawned the nebula in 1054. The supernova startled
astronomers in China, who recorded the appearance of a new
star so bright it shined in broad daylight for weeks.
The core of the star became a pulsar, or neutron star, that
spins on its axis 30 times a second. It is discernable in the image as the lower of two moderately bright stars to the upper left of center.
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Heating up its surroundings, the pulsar produces a bluish
glow in a nearby gas cloud, partly visible as a blue arc to
Expelled by the explosion, the outer layers of the star
became the colorful tangle of filaments strewn throughout the
image. The yellow-green strands near the bottom are actually
nearer the Earth than the pulsar and continue to approach at
300 miles (480 km) per second.
The orange and pink filaments near the top are on the other
side of the pulsar and rush from Earth in the opposite
The different colors manifest elements within the expanding
gases. Orange indicates hydrogen; red, nitrogen; pink,
sulfur; green, oxygen.
The expanding chemical elements will eventually become part
of new stars and planets, according to astronomers. Hubble
Heritage team scientists used pictures taken in 1995 with
five different color filters to produce this new false-color
composite of the nebula, located about 6,500 light-years from Earth.
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