Writing Prompts: The Crab Nebula

Nature is beautiful, and stellar sights are beyond gorgeous. One example of this is the stunning Crab Nebula, as seen above.

Not only is it visually amazing, the Crab Nebula also holds an important place in our understanding of how massive stars die, and it is tied to our history of observing the cosmos. In 1054, Chinese astronomers observed a new star in the night sky, which was visible from the 4th of July, all the way through to the 6th of April 1056. That ‘new star’ was in fact the brilliant light from a dying, exploding star. The occasion to link an historical observation with a stellar marvel is quite rare, so when such a link was established, it was very exciting!

The Crab Nebula is the remnant of SN 1054, and the nebula itself was first identified in 1731 by one John Bevis. In the 20th Century, new theories about pulsars reignited interest in the Crab Nebula, which was regarded as unusually bright. A pulsar – a rapidly spinning neutron star – was a possible source for the brightness, and sure enough, a pulsar was observed in 1968.

The X-ray image offers the best glimpse at the effects of the pulsar on its immediate environment. The twirling band is the result of the pulsar’s incredibly rapid spin, and this helps produce the immense, gorgeous appearance of the nebula.

I may well use this particular Prompt as a jumping-off point for more, so watch this space!

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