What it is: The highest resolution image of the Crab Nebula (M1) already taken
Where is it: 6,500 light years away, in the constellation Taurus
When it was taken: October 2023
Why it’s so special: This new infrared image of James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) shows one of the most studied and impressive nebulae in the night sky in a new light. Published On October 30, the image reveals new details within the mysterious supernova remnant known as the Crab Nebula.
A remnant of the explosive demise of a giant star nearly 1,000 years ago in 1054, the Crab Nebula consists of a rapidly rotating star. neutron star (the dense remains of the star’s core) at its center, surrounded by a vast expanding shell of gas. In the JWST image, it is possible to see, for the first time, filaments of vaporous gas with very sharp red-orange details. Inside the nebula, the light from the dust grains glows yellow-white and green.
However, it’s what the image reveals about the inner workings of the Crab Nebula that could be the real breakthrough. Inside the nebula is a bluish-white smoky glow that NASA scientists believe is radiation produced by charged particles moving around magnetic field lines produced by the central neutron star.
The new image of JWST moves one from the Hubble Space Telescope in 2005 as the best image scientists have of the Crab Nebula. JWST’s 6.5 meter (21.3 ft) mirror has six times the collecting power of Hubble’s 2.4 m (7.9 ft) mirror, but JWST’s ability to see into the infrared allows for incredible images like this. Invisible to humans and blocked by Earth’s atmosphere, infrared light is detected as heat by JWST, allowing the telescope to see through dust and gas that typically block visible light emissions from distant objects. JWST’s near-infrared camera and mid-infrared instrument captured data for this spectacular image.
—Space photo of the week: Radio ‘ring of fire’ shows solar eclipse like never before
— Pluto could have an ice-spewing ‘supervolcano’ the size of Yellowstone, New Horizons data reveals
—Historic space photo: Monstrous “Halloween storm” explodes under the sun
How to see it in the night sky: From the Northern Hemisphere, the Crab Nebula is relatively easy to find as a hazy area in the night sky if you have a pair of glasses. binoculars for stargazing or one good little telescope. It’s about halfway between two bright stars in the autumn night sky: Betelgeuse, in Orion, and Capella, in Auriga. According to Hubble websiteThe Crab Nebula takes its name from a drawing by Irish astronomer Lord Rosse (William Parsons), who in 1844 sketched the fiery remnant after observing it through a 36-inch (91-centimeter) telescope.