Astronomy Picture of the Day

Flashes of the Crab Pulsar
Video Credit & Copyright: Martin Fiedler

Explanation: It somehow survived an explosion that would surely have destroyed our Sun. Now it is spins 30 times a second and is famous for the its rapid flashes. It is the Crab Pulsar, the rotating neutron star remnant of the supernova that created the Crab Nebula. A careful eye can spot the pulsar flashes in the featured time-lapse video, just above the image center. The video was created by adding together images taken only when the pulsar was flashing, as well as co-added images from other relative times. The Crab Pulsar flashes may have been first noted by an unknown woman attending a public observing night at the University of Chicago in 1957 — but who was not believed. The progenitor supernova explosion was seen by many in the year 1054 AD. The expanding Crab Nebula remains a picturesque expanding gas cloud that glows across the electromagnetic spectrum. The pulsar is now thought to have survived the supernova explosion because it is composed of extremely-dense quantum-degenerate matter.

Tomorrow’s picture: lasing space

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