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The Crab Nebula is a hot, expanding cloud of gas that was created from an exploding star known as a supernova. The light of the supernova explosion was first observed on Earth by Chinese astronomers on July 4, 1054 A.D. In 1758 Charles Messier made it the first object, M 1, of his famous catalog.
The Crab Nebula is located approximately 6,300 light years away. It is some 10 light years across and is expanding at about 1,800 km/sec.
At the heart of the nebula lies the Crab Nebula pulsar. The pulsar is neutron star that spins 30 times per second. It is heavier than our Sun but only about 20 kilometers (12.4 miles) across. A detail of the photo with the pulsar arrowed is here.
This image was obtained using the 200-inch Hale Telescope's Wide field Infrared Camera at Palomar Observatory by David Kaplan of the California Institute of Technology. This color image is composed of three infrared images. The red colors come from an image obtained at 2.15 microns, green from the light of ionized iron (Fe II) at 1.644 microns and blue from 1.25 microns.
The research was based on observations obtained at the Hale Telescope, Palomar Observatory, as part of a collaborative agreement between the California Institute of Technology, its divisions Caltech Optical Observatories and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (operated for NASA), and Cornell University.
A photograph of the Crab Nebula from the Palomar Observatory's 60-inch Telescope is on-line at the SEDS website here.
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