Tag Archives: Crab Nebula

The Crab Nebula



In  July 1054 a strange and very large star mysteriously appeared in the sky. The new star was so bright that it could be seen even during the day time. The Chinese astronomers were very excited and maintained an exact record of the star’s dramatic appearance and its eventual disappearance from the sky. The Red Indians were so inspired by the new star that they drew pictures of it in their caves. However no records of
this event have been kept by Indians or the Europeans. Our ancestors may not have seen it because all this happened in the monsoon months of July and August. The Europeans may have chosen to ignore it because it would have gone against their belief that the universe created by God is perfect and the heavens do not change.

       This was a most astonishing event. New stars dont just appear! According to the Chineese the new star gave out intense rays even during the day time and it had a reddish white colour. The star remained visible at evening time for almost a year and then it faded away just as mysteriously as it had arrived.

       This mystery was forgotten for almost 600 years. The invention of the telescope helped astronomers look closely at the site where the mysterious star had appeared. In 1731 the English astronomer Charles Messier observed strings of gas and dust at exactly the same position in the sky. They called it the Crab Nebula( A cloud that looks like a crab). This was the first intergalactic cloud(nebula) to be observed. Astronomers
were fascinated by this strange object and started sudying it with their telescopes.

         In 1939 John Duncan calculated that the crab was expanding and would have have started as a point object about 800 years earlier. A few years later scientists armed with even bigger telescopes observed a much smaller star at the center of the Crab nebula. This star was emitting the most powerful radio waves compared to any other celestial body.

       Today we know that the bright “new” “star” that appeared mysteriously in July 1054 was actually the death of a star. A star almost 50 times larger than our Sun had exploded. This phenomenon is called a Supernova( nova means new). All the mass that this star contained became clouds of dust ( the nebula). And the core of the star turned into a neutron star( a star having no electrons…just neutrons). It emits powerful radio waves. So what happened in the year 1054 was a cataclysmic explosion.

       The explosion took place almost 6500 light years from the earth. So if it was visible during daytime on earth you can imagine its power. If it had happened even as far as 50 light years from earth life on earth would have been destroyed because of the intensity of the radiation

       Everything in the universe is very far from us. Light takes 6500 years from the crab nebula site to reach the earth. So the actal explosion started in the year 5446 BC. The filaments of the nebula are still expanding at the rate of 1000 Kms per second. The diameter of the crab nebula is 6 light years! The pulsar (the small neutron star at the centre) is about 12 Kms across and rotates about its axis at 33 times per sec.

       When we fight with each other we do not realize that the earth is just a small insignificant dust particle in the universe. The universe outside is MUCH MUCH bigger and so many more exciting things happening. There is so much going on…. How can we fight with earh other over insignificant things????

       When everybody is making a face
       and calling each other names
       And the whole world is ajangle and ajar….
       I meditate on interstellar space
       And smoke a mild cigar…. 😉


( References: Todays VERITAS has been inspired by the book “Violent Phenomenon in the UNiverse” by Jayant Narlikar. The little poem at the end has been taken from the poem Canopus written by Bert Leston Taylor. )


 Go, wondrous creature! mount where Science guides:
 Go, measure earth, weigh air, and state the tides:
 Instruct the planets in what orbs to run,
 Correct old time and regulate the Sun;

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Veritas by Kanwarpreet Grewal is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.