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Details from Webb’s Cameras Reveal Crabby Composition

The Crab Nebula is an oval nebula with complex structure against a black background. On the nebula’s exterior, particularly at the top left and bottom left, lie curtains of glowing red and orange fluffy material. Its interior shell shows large-scale loops of mottled filaments of yellow-white and green, studded with clumps and knots. Translucent thin ribbons of smoky white lie within the remnant’s interior, brightest toward its center. The white material follows different directions throughout, including sometimes sharply curving away from certain regions within the remnant. A faint, wispy ring of white material encircles the very center of the nebula. Around and within the supernova remnant are many points of blue, red, and yellow light.
NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, T. Temim (Princeton University)

The James Webb Space Telescope captures new details of the Crab Nebula, 6,500 light-years away, in this image released on Oct. 30, 2023. While these remains of an exploded star have been well-studied by multiple observatories, including the Hubble Space Telescope, Webb’s infrared sensitivity and resolution offer new clues into the makeup and origins of this scene.

Thanks to Webb’s Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam) and Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI), scientists were able to determine the composition of the material ejected from the explosion. The supernova remnant is comprised of several different components, including doubly ionized sulfur (represented in red-orange), ionized iron (blue), dust (yellow-white and green), and synchrotron emission (white). In this image, colors were assigned to different filters from Webb’s NIRCam and MIRI: blue (F162M), light blue (F480M), cyan (F560W), green (F1130W), orange (F1800W), and red (F2100W).

Take a video tour of this image.

Image Credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, T. Temim (Princeton University)