The Southern Crab Nebula. Photo: NASA, ESA, and STScI
What makes the Southern Crab Nebula unique is that the white dwarf accretes material from its partner and spews out even more matter, creating the majestic structures seen in NASA’s photo.
The Southern Crab Nebula
Hubble explained in a press release that the red giant in the Southern Crab Nebula is shedding its outer layers in the last phase of its life before it too lives out its final years as a white dwarf. The gravity of the white dwarf attracts the red giant’s ejected material.
Eventually, the red giant will finish throwing off its outer layers, and stop feeding its white dwarf companion. Prior to this, there may also be more eruptions, creating even more intricate structures.
Astronomers first spotted the red giant in the late sixties. But at the time, it was assumed to be an ordinary star. Moreover, the first images showed the outer hourglass figure. It was only later, in 1999, that Hubble photographed its complicated nested structures.
The Hubble Telescope turns 29
NASA launched the ESA Hubble Space Telescopes on the space shuttle Discovery on 24 April 1990. In doing so, it changed the way astronomers and the general public see the Universe.
And every year, the telescope takes a spectacular new image to image to celebrate another year in space. It also captured a pair of interacting galaxies called Arp 273 for its 21st anniversary.
Then in 2015, it photographed the Westerlund 2 cluster. The distorted shape of the larger of the two galaxies also shows signs of tidal interactions. The smaller galaxy also appears to pass through the larger one.
Hubble observes the universe in near-ultraviolet, visible, and near-infrared light. In addition, the telescope has revolutionised astronomy and astrophysics with its discoveries.
These include identifying the first supermassive black hole in the heart of NGC 4261 and NGC 3115, our neighbouring galaxies.