Image of the week: The Crab Nebula

Crab Nebula

Image: ESA/Herschel/PACS/MESS Key Programme Supernova Remnant Team; NASA, ESA and Allison Loll/Jeff Hester (Arizona State University).

The Crab Nebula is the remains of a supernova, a massive cloud of gas and dust generated by the explosive death of a star. Located within our Milky Way galaxy, the original supernova was observed by Chinese astronomers in the year 1054.

A neutron star, or pulsar, remains at the centre, feeding the nebula with energetic particles.

This image combines an image of the nebula in visible wavelengths, captured by the Hubble Space Telescope, and a far-infrared image from the Herschel Space Observatory, which reveals the emission of dust from the nebula, highlighted in red. This new image has revealed far more dust than expected in the Crab Nebule, equivalent to about a quarter of the mass of our Sun.

Astronomers have also found the dust contains argon hydride, the first noble gas-based compound found in space.