RUSSELL CROMAN / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY RUSSELL CROMAN / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Crab nebula (M1), optical image. The Crab nebula is a supernova remnant, a series of gas shells cast off during the explosive death of a massive star. The shells are ejected at extremely high speeds, and when they collide with the interstellar medium they are compressed and heated, and emit light. The core of the star that exploded as a supernova became a pulsar, a rapidly spinning neutron star that emits regular pulses of radiation. The supernova that created the Crab nebula was recorded by Chinese astronomers in 1054 AD as a bright "guest star", which was visible for two years before fading. The remnant lies 6300 light years from Earth in the constellation Taurus.
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