Where Did The Crab Nebula Come From?
The Crab Nebula is actually the remnants of a supernova. A supernova is what results from the death of a star. There are two ways a supernova can occur.
One type happens when a white dwarf star gains so much mass that gravity causes it to implode. This causes one of the largest nuclear explosions imaginable and destroys the star. This will send energy and light throughout the universe.
When a massive star runs out of fuel, it collapses in on itself creating a huge explosion. Large amounts of gravitational energy are released. This causes the outer layers of the star to fly into space. What is left behind is a pulsar. This second type is what happened with the Crab Nebula.
What is left behind?
At the center of the nebula is a neutron star called the Crab Pulsar. When a supernova occurs and the star collapses in on itself, it leaves behind a small but incredibly dense star that is called a neutron star. It is mostly a collection of neutrons packed tightly together. It’s called a pulsar because it sends pulses of radiation throughout the universe. It is also spinning rapidly emitting light along the way.
During this time, rare minerals and elements are formed. The rare minerals found on Earth are the creation of stars dying throughout the universe over the span of time. These minerals and elements are used here on Earth. This means that human beings use the products of dying stars. The types of elements formed depend on the type of supernova that occurs.
The star that started the Crab Nebula would have been over 8 times more massive than our sun. Today though, the pulsar star has a diameter of around 18 miles. Even though it is incredibly small, it still contains roughly 1.5 times the mass of our sun. That means that the Crab Pulsar takes up less space but includes way more mass held tightly together.
How was the Crab Nebula discovered?
The explosion that created the nebula was witnessed in Asia in the year 1054. People living there would have seen an unexplainable bright light in the sky for weeks.
The nebula was first discovered by a man named John Bevis in 1731. It was the first supernova remnant ever found by humans. In 1844 the scientist William Parsons observed the nebula and made a drawing of what he saw. That drawing resembled a crab, and that is how the Crab Nebula got its name.
More facts to know
The nebula is still expanding. There is a shock wave coming from the nebula that is causing the gases and other materials to move away from it. The star at the center is constantly spinning much faster that the Earth.
The nebula is located in the Taurus constellation. Constellations are patterns among stars that look like animals, people, or objects. This constellation is named the Taurus constellation because it looks like a Taurus which is similar to a bull.
The Crab Nebula is thought to be around 6500 light years away from Earth. That means if someone looked through a telescope and saw the nebula, they would be looking at light that took 6500 years to reach Earth. Also, the nebula itself is 11 light years across.