Crab Nebula Composite

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This is an amazing composite image of the Crab Nebula supernova remnant. It shows the neutron star at the center, superimposed over the shockwave nebula (whose outline can be observed dimly in a decent telescope).

This is what happens to high mass stars when they run out of fuel. The atmosphere of the star suddenly collapses inward and dramatically rebounds off the compressed neutron core.

Conservation of angular momentum makes the neutron star spin rapidly (a pulsar) and the rest of the star’s atmosphere expands into space releasing huge quantities of energy (a supernova).

This particular supernova was observed and recorded by Chinese astronomers in 1054 AD as a ‘guest star’, in the constellation Taurus. ┬áIt remained visible as a naked eye star for over a year before fading.