Credit: NASA/ESA and Jeff Hester (Arizona State University).
Image Credit: NASA/ESA and Jeff Hester (Arizona State University).

Apart from the Pillars of Creation in M16, this lovely nebula may very well be one of the most famous deep space images taken to date.

The Crab Nebula (formally classified as M1 or NGC 1952) is located about 6,500 light-years from Earth in the constellation of Taurus. The nebula itself is the shattered remnant of a massive star that is alive no more.

In the place of the former star lies a very dense and energetic pulsar that spins so quickly, it makes 30 complete rotations per SECOND. Due to said spin, the large quantity of x-ray radiation emitted from the pulsar is so stable, astronomers have used it to calibrate space-based instruments. Furthermore, this ‘cosmic generator’ is rapidly producing energy at a rate  equivalent to that of 100,000 suns!

The light from the explosion that gave birth to the nebula first reached Earth in 1054 AD and was documented by several astronomers from different portions of the world., but it took another  700 years for the shockwaves to die down, before different people were able to spot the nebula it left behind.

Lastly, the Crab Nebula extends an astonishing 15 light-years across! For those of you that are equipped with a good telescope and the urge to explore the cosmos, the Crab Nebula can be found in the Peruses Arm of our galaxy.

See the image at multiple wavelengths here. Download a larger version of this image here.