The Crab nebula in X-ray light, as photographed by the Chandra X-ray Observatory.
At the center of the Crab Nebula is a rapidly spinning neutron star, or pulsar that emits pulses of radiation 30 times a second. The image shows the central pulsar surrounded by tilted rings of high-energy particles that appear to have been flung outward over a distance of more than a light year from the pulsar. Perpendicular to the rings, jet-like structures produced by high-energy particles blast away from the pulsar. The diameter of the inner ring in the image is about a tenth of a light year, more than 200 times the diameter of our solar system. The X rays from the Crab nebula are produced by high-energy particles spiraling around magnetic field lines in the Nebula. The bell-shaped appearance of the Nebula could be due to the interaction of this huge magnetized bubble with clouds of gas and dust in the vicinity.
Last Modification: June 10, 2000