Dissecting the Southern Crab Nebula
This video illustrates how Hubble Space Telescope spectral observations were used to study the chemical makeup of the Southern Crab Nebula. The hourglass-shaped nebula contains elements forged in the interior of its two aging central stars that were then blasted back into space. Energized by radiation from the pair of bright stars, each of these elements glows in specific colors (or wavelengths) of light. Hubble's Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph has a narrow rectangular window that was positioned along the center of the nebula. Inside this window, light was divided into a spectrum of colors. By doing this, the specific glow from hydrogen, sulfur, oxygen, and nitrogen could be isolated. Once injected into interstellar space, these elements will be available for future generations of stars, planets, and possibly life. NASA's upcoming James Webb Space Telescope will routinely use spectroscopy to explore a wide range of astronomical research, from exoplanets to the remote universe.
Publication: April 18, 2019