Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2006 October 26
See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download
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Composite Crab
Credit: NASA - X-ray: CXC, J.Hester (ASU) et al.;
Optical: ESA, J.Hester and A.Loll (ASU); Infrared: JPL-Caltech, R.Gehrz (U. Minn)

Explanation: The Crab Nebula is cataloged as M1, the first object on Charles Messier's famous list of things which are not comets. In fact, the Crab is now known to be a supernova remnant, expanding debris from the death explosion of a massive star. This intriguing false-color image combines data from space-based observatories, Chandra, Hubble, and Spitzer, to explore the debris cloud in x-rays (blue-purple), optical (green), and infrared (red) light. One of the most exotic objects known to modern astronomers, the Crab Pulsar, a neutron star spinning 30 times a second, is the bright spot near picture center. Like a cosmic dynamo, this collapsed remnant of the stellar core powers the Crab's emission across the electromagnetic spectrum. Spanning about 12 light-years, the Crab Nebula is 6,500 light-years away in the constellation Taurus.

Tomorrow's picture: the spider and the fly

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