Hubble images neutron star at the heart of the Crab Nebula
The Hubble Space Telescope has capturedan image of the super-dense neutron star at the heart of the famous Crab Nebula.The nebula resulted from one of the earliest supernovae to berecorded by human beings, and its striking form has made it a populartarget for amateur and professional astronomers alike.
Located roughly 6,500 light-years fromEarth in the constellation of Taurus, the chaotic twisting clouds ofdust and gas mark the site of one of the Universe's most violent anddramatic events, a supernovae. In the year 1054, light emitted during theexplosion was the second brightest point in the night sky, outshoneonly by Earth's Moon.
As the star that formed the nebuladied, it threw out vast quantities of material. In its death throws,the stellar body's core began to collapse, causing massive amounts ofprotons and electrons to condense and merge to form an ultra-denseneutron core, which can still be seen to this day.
It is thought that a sugar cube-sized amount of an incredibly dense zombie stars such as the neutron star at the heart of the Crab Nebula would weigh the same as Mount Everest. What's more, neutronstars spin incredibly fast. The specimen lurking in the depths of the CrabNebula is thought to rotate 30 times a second.
The recent composite image, composed of three separate images taken roughly 10 years apart, peers beyondthe striking finery of the Crab Nebula's outer filaments to gaze atits neutron heart. Filimentary ionized gas is represented in red while ablue glow marks the radiation thrown out by electrons spiraling within the star's powerful magnetic field at close to thespeed of light.
The neutron star itself can be observedas the upper right-hand star of the two brightest stars near thecenter of the image. The short video below zooms in from the constellation of Taurus to the inner parts of the Crab Nebula.
Source: Hubble Space Telescope