Investigating the origins of the crab nebula | Science & Technology

A team of scientists used NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope to parse the composition of the Crab Nebula, a supernova remnant located 6,500 light-years away in the constellation Taurus. With the telescope’s MIRI (Mid-Infrared Instrument) and NIRCam (Near-Infrared Camera), the team gathered data that is helping to clarify the Crab Nebula’s history.

The Crab Nebula is the result of a core-collapse supernova from the death of a massive star. The supernova explosion itself was seen on Earth in 1054 CE and was bright enough to view during the daytime. The much fainter remnant observed today is an expanding shell of gas and dust, and outflowing wind powered by a pulsar, a rapidly spinning and highly magnetized neutron star.

The Crab Nebula is also highly unusual. Its atypical composition and very low explosion energy previously have been explained by an electron-capture supernova — a rare type of explosion that arises from a star with a less-evolved core made of oxygen, neon, and magnesium, rather than a more typical iron core.

“Now the Webb data widen the possible interpretations,” said Tea Temim, lead author of the study at Princeton University in New Jersey. “The composition of the gas no longer requires an electron-capture explosion, but could also be explained by a weak iron core-collapse supernova.”

Studying the Present to Understand the Past

Past research efforts have calculated the total kinetic energy of the explosion based on the quantity and velocities of the present-day ejecta. Astronomers deduced that the nature of the explosion was one of relatively low energy (less than one-tenth that of a normal supernova), and the progenitor star’s mass was in the range of eight to 10 solar masses — teetering on the thin line between stars that experience a violent supernova death and those that do not.

However, inconsistencies exist between the electron-capture supernova theory and observations of the Crab, particularly the observed rapid motion of the pulsar. In…

Source www.sciencedaily.com

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