Credit: NASA, ESA, J. Hester and A. Loll (Arizona State University)

In the year 1054, Japanese, Chinese and Native American astronomers recorded a violent event. They saw a star that hadn’t been there before. It turned out to be a supernova that formed the Crab Nebula and it’s one of the earliest recorded astronomical events by humans.

Also known as M1 and NGC 1952, the Crab Nebula is the leftovers after a star explodes. The streamers found in the Crab Nebula are the remains of that star flung out during the huge explosion. To astronomers who first looked at the night sky, this patch of light looked like a crab. At the center of the Crab Nebula is a neutron star. A neutron star is as massive as the sun but is pressed into a ball the size of a small town. It is very dense and spins very quickly. The Crab Pulsar rotates about 30 times a second.

The Crab Nebula spans about 10 light years. It is 6,000 light years away toward the constellation of Taurus the Bull. Taurus is beginning to rise in the late evening now and during the fall will rise earlier and earlier.

NASA‘s Hubble Space Telescope took this image of M1 in 1999 and 2000. The picture is one of the largest ever taken by Hubble. It is the best image taken of the Crab Nebula.