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Animations: NASA's Great Observatories Help Astronomers Build a 3D Visualization of Exploded Star
A Tour of the Crab Nebula 3D Visualization
(Credit: NASA/CXC/A. Hobart)
[Runtime: 03:02]

With closed-captions (at YouTube)

In the year 1054 AD, Chinese sky watchers witnessed the sudden appearance of a "new star" in the heavens, which they recorded as six times brighter than Venus, making it the brightest observed stellar event in recorded history. This "guest star," as they described it, was so bright that people saw it in the sky during the day for almost a month. Native Americans also recorded its mysterious appearance in petroglyphs.

Observing the nebula with the largest telescope of the time, Lord Rosse in 1844 named the object the "Crab" because of its tentacle-like structure. But it wasn't until the 1900s that astronomers realized the nebula was the surviving relic of the 1054 supernova, the explosion of a massive star.

Now, astronomers and visualization specialists have combined the visible, infrared, and X-ray vision of NASA's Great Observatories to create a three-dimensional representation of the dynamic Crab Nebula. Certain structures and processes, driven by the pulsar engine at the heart of the nebula, are best seen at particular wavelengths.

The multiwavelength computer graphics visualization is based on images from the Chandra X-ray Observatory and the Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes. The new video dissects the intricate nested structure that makes up this stellar corpse, giving viewers a better understanding of the extreme and complex physical processes powering the nebula. The powerhouse "engine" energizing the entire system is a pulsar, a rapidly spinning neutron star, the super-dense crushed core of the exploded star. The tiny dynamo is blasting out blistering pulses of radiation towards us 30 times a second with unbelievable clockwork precision.

The visualization is one of a new generation of products and experiences being developed by the NASA's Universe of Learning program. It helps illustrate the power of what astronomers call "multiwavelength" astronomy where different types of light are combined to get a more complete understanding of the Universe and objects within it.


A Quick Look at the Crab Nebula 3D Visualization
(Credit: NASA/CXC/A. Hobart)
[Runtime: 01:12]

A new visualization using data from NASA's "Great Observatories" provides an idea of what the Crab Nebula looks like in 3D.

The Crab Nebula was the brightest "new star" when it was seen in 1054 AD after a massive star ran out of fuel and exploded.

Today, astronomers know that the Crab is powered by a quickly spinning, highly magnetized neutron star called a pulsar.

By combining data from Chandra, Hubble, and Spitzer, experts can piece together how the Crab may appear in three dimensions.

Certain structures and processes, driven by the pulsar, are revealed by the X-ray, optical, and radio wavelengths each telescope detects.

This visualization, created by NASA's Universe of Learning program, demonstrates why different types of light are needed to fully explore objects in space.

3D Visualization of the Crab Nebula
(Credit: NASA's Great Observatories Help Astronomers Build a 3D Visualization of Exploded Star)
[Runtime: 03:43]

With closed-captions (at YouTube)

The visible, infrared, and X-ray vision of NASA's Great Observatories have been combined to create a three-dimensional representation of the Crab Nebula. The visualization is based on images from the Chandra, Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes, and dissects the intricate nested structure that makes up the stellar corpse. The powerhouse "engine" energizing the Crab system is a pulsar, a rapidly spinning neutron star, that is shooting out blistering pulses of radiation towards us 30 times a second with clockwork precision. The three-dimensional interpretation is guided by science data and evidence, scientific knowledge and intuition, and artistic license.




Return to: NASA's Great Observatories Help Astronomers Build a 3D Visualization of Exploded Star (January 5, 2020)