It is one of the most famous nebulae known to astronomers. But the Crab Nebula can now be seen like never before thanks to NASA's James Webb Space Telescope. The remarkable object is the remnant of a stellar explosion that lit up the sky nearly 1,000 years ago. NASA hopes this latest view of the glowing cosmic cloud will help unravel its puzzling history. The Crab Nebula, a product of a massive supernova in 1054, was visible across the world for 23 days. Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Arab astronomers were among those who witnessed the phenomenon. Historical records align with the latest findings, confirming the origin of this ancient event.
The Crab Nebula is now a powerful cosmic "generator," producing energy equivalent to 100,000 suns. Scientists, led by Tea Temim of Princeton University, are using Webb's advanced capabilities to accurately determine the composition of the ejected material and understand what type of explosion produced the nebula.
NASA suggests that viewers trace the wisps that follow a ripple-like pattern to find the "pulsar heart" of the Crab Nebula. Webb's infrared capabilities offer an unprecedented view of the stellar explosion, showcasing the detailed structure and inner workings of the nebula.
Named after astronomer William Parsons' 1850 drawing resembling a crab, the Crab Nebula was discovered in 1731. Research in the 20th century connected the nebula to the supernova explosion SN 1054, mentioned in ancient Chinese records as a new star visible during the day.
The James Webb Space Telescope, often referred to as a "time machine," will provide insights into the early universe and observe various celestial objects, including the first galaxies and exoplanets. With its enhanced abilities, Webb aims to complement the Hubble Space Telescope in expanding our understanding of the cosmos.