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The Crab Nebula (M1) -- Located in the constellation Taurus



step 1
Locate the constellation Orion. Identify Betelgeuse, the bright red star that represents the Hunter's armpit.
find Hercules Cluster step one
step 2
Locate the constellation Taurus. Identify Alnath, the second-brightest star in Taurus and the one that represents the Bull's left horn.
find Hercules Cluster step one
step 3
Draw a line from Betelgeuse to Alnath.
find Hercules Cluster step one
step 4
About two-thirds of the way from Betelgeuse to Alnath is where you'll find the Crab Nebula.
find Hercules Cluster step one

If what you're seeing is indeed beautiful but not particularly crustacean-esque, not to worry- you've found the Crab Nebula. The name is derived from William Parsons' 1884 sketch of the nebula, which was definitively crablike.

Notable Crab Tidbits

A stunning leftover from a violent supernova, the Crab Nebula is a bright nebula that bears the scientific name M1. The "M" refers to Charles Messier, the 18th-century astronomer who catalogued 103 "comet-like" objects, and the numbers correspond to the order in which Messier discovered and recorded them. These nebulae, star clusters, and other deep sky objects are today known as "Messier objects", and the Crab Nebula bears the distinction of being the first.

In 1054, astronomers in China and Arabia recorded details of the supernova that would go on to form the Crab Nebula. While it might be surprising that 11th-century astronomers could make such an observation, there were in fact many shrewd observers of the night sky then and well before this event. However, that this supernova, which took place about 6.5 light years away from Earth, was reportedly seen for 23 days in broad daylight and for nearly 2 years in the night sky suggests that no record of the event would be more surprising still.

  • A pulsar (a highly dense neutron star that emits bursts of radiation at short, regular intervals) at the center of the Crab Nebula, along with the nebula itself, is what remains of a supernova explosion in 1054.
  • The Crab Pulsar, as it is known, is referred to as the supernova's progenitor star- a term ascribed to any neutron star created by a supernova explosion.
  • The Crab Nebula is the only supernova remnant easily viewable through most basic telescopes.
  • The Crab Nebula emits electromagnetic radiation over the entire measurable spectrum.
  • Everything You Need To See The Crab Nebula


    You don't need a large or expensive telescope to find the Crab Nebula, which is part of its appeal. But keep in mind that the more light gathering capacity and magnification power you employ, the more stunning details you'll be able to appreciate.

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    The Crab Nebula is just one of the many wonders of the night sky. To find more and to observe them in stunning detail, add a few essential telescope accessories to your astronomy arsenal.

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    M42 & M13: courtesy of Tim Hunter and James McGaha, Grasslands Observatory at; M31 & M45: courtesy of Herm Perez,; M8: courtesy of Bob Star, / CC BY 2.0

    2009: The International Year of Astronomy

    With the theme "The Universe, Yours to Discover," a United Nations agency is bringing astronauts, artists, scientists, academics, and others together during the 400th anniversary of Galileo's first observation of the heavens in 1609.

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