The Crab Nebula is the remnant of a supernova. It is located in the constellation of Taurus and is 6000 light-years away from Earth. It is a part of the Milky Way galaxy that includes our solar system.
The Crab Nebula was named after William Parsons who observed the object through a telescope in 1942 and then drew it. The drawing of the nebula resembled a crab.
The Crab Nebula contains a pulsar wind nebula. Pulsars are extremely dense and rapidly spinning objects. The pulsar's rapid spin and strong magnetic fields create pulsar wind nebulas that can extend over many light-years.
There was once a massive star at the dense core of the pulsar. Thus, the Crab Nebula is the result of an astronomical explosion that occurred when the star was in its last evolutionary stages. A supernova was triggered by the gravitational collapse of the core of the massive star.
The supernova explosion that resulted in the Crab Nebula was first observed and noted by Chinese astronomers in 1054 A.D. Japanese and Arab astronomers also noted the light from the exploding star. The supernova became known as SN 1054.
In the 1900s, modern astronomers who were observing the Crab Nebula noticed that it was getting bigger in size and expanding. They deduced that the supernova explosion occurred nine centuries ago in human history. Thus, they could identify the supernova as SN 1054.
Today, the Crab Nebula can be spotted with a small telescope. According to NASA, it is best observed in January.