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.