This colorful image from the Hubble Space Telescope showcases the Southern Crab Nebula and highlights the unique shapes around an aging star system. This image was released to celebrate Hubble’s 29th anniversary in space.
This huge symmetrical structure was sculpted by the interaction between a whirling pair of stars, seen as the bright glow in the center of the nebula. The duo is made up of an aging red giant star and a white dwarf— a burned-out star. Astronomers used Hubble to divide the light from the Southern Crab Nebula into its various colors, or wavelengths—a process called spectroscopy. This technique shows which chemical elements are present and how they are distributed in the nebula.
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Hubblesite press release: Hubble Celebrates 29th Anniversary with a Colorful Look at the Southern Crab Nebula