New Video: Crab Nebula Comes Alive

An iconic colorful cloud of gas and dust – the remains of an ancient violent cosmic event-  is finally revealing its dynamic nature thanks to a newly released video more than a decade in the making.

A favorite target for backyard telescope users for generations, the Crab Nebula, sitting some 6,500 light years from Earth, in the constellation Taurus the bull, is the remnants of a star’s supernova explosion first seen by humans back in the year 1054.  We know this because records kept by Chinese and Japanese astronomers of the time describe a new bright star shining in the sky that lasted for only a few weeks.

Despite the resulting six-light-year-wide space cloud expanding at a rate of 1,500 kilometers (932 miles) per second, changes in its shape have been difficult to see due to its relative small angular size in our sky and its large distance away. (Related: New Time-Lapse Movie Shows Cosmic Crab in Action)

But now, astronomer Adam Block has managed to capture the growth of the Crab nebula that has occurred between 1999 and 2012 through beautiful images taken by two large professional observatories – and assembled them into the compelling video above.

Tip of the hat to Phil Plait for this great find.

The animation is truly awe-inspiring, and a great cosmic way to end the week.


Follow Andrew Fazekas, the Night Sky Guy, on Twitter and Facebook.

Andrew Fazekas, aka The Night Sky Guy, is a science writer, broadcaster, and lecturer who loves to share his passion for the wonders of the universe through all media. He is a regular contributor to National Geographic News and is the national cosmic correspondent for Canada’s Weather Network TV channel, space columnist for CBC Radio network, and a consultant for the Canadian Space Agency. As a member of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Andrew has been observing the heavens from Montreal for over a quarter century and has never met a clear night sky he didn’t like.
  • Brian Francis Pretorius

    Absolutely awe inspiring. Thank you very much to you, the people who make it possible for me to see these amazing things.

  • michael de vera

    awsome!!!!! a few question? how does it affects us..i mean is there any reason that connects in our global warming…tnx.

  • Mason

    Were those two photos taken with a similar color filter?

  • Damon

    Global warming? Um… no. Obviously a nebula thousands of light years away has nothing to do with global warming. Not that there’s anything wrong with being concerned about global warming, but… the blog is called Star Struck…

About the Blog

Researchers, conservationists, and others share stories, insights and ideas about Our Changing Planet, Wildlife & Wild Spaces, and The Human Journey. More than 50,000 comments have been added to 10,000 posts. Explore the list alongside to dive deeper into some of the most popular categories of the National Geographic Society’s conversation platform Voices.

Opinions are those of the blogger and/or the blogger’s organization, and not necessarily those of the National Geographic Society. Posters of blogs and comments are required to observe National Geographic’s community rules and other terms of service.

Voices director: David Braun (dbraun@ngs.org)

Social Media