Also Known As: Messier 1, LBN 883, Taurus A, Sh2-224, SN1054, Taurus X-1, Crab Nebula
Object Type: Supernova Remnant
Right Ascension (2000.0): 05h 34m 32.0s
Declination (2000.0): +22° 00' 52"
Dimensions: 6' x 4'
Distance: 6,500 light years
Discovery: John Bevis, 1731
NGC Description: vB, vL, E 135°±, vglbM, r
Telescope: Parks Astrolight EQ6 • 6" f/6 Newtonian Reflector
Eyepiece/Magnification: 7.5mm Parks Gold Series Plössl • 120x • 26' FoV
Date/Time: 14 February 2010 • 02:45-04:00 UT
Observing Location: Oaksanita Springs, Descanso, San Diego Co., California, USA
Transparency: NELM 6.3, TLM 14.2
Seeing: Pickering 8
Conditions: Clear, calm
On 4-5 July 1054 a new star blazed forth between the horns of Taurus and was, according to Chinese astronomers of the Sung dynasty, visible in daylight and observed for 23; it remained visible in nighttime skies for at least 653 nights. The remnant of this supernova explosion was discovered by Dr. John Bevis in 1731 and included by Charles Messier as the first object in his famous catalogue after observing it on 12 September 1758. The rapidly spinning core of the remnant is one of the first known pulsars and the first to be identified with an object at visible wavelengths – a faint 16th magnitude star near the center of the nebula. The pulsar and attendant nebulosity are among the most intensely studied objects by modern researchers.
Nearly 1000 years after the initial explosion, the remnant is still easily accessible to the amateur astronomer equipped with a small telescope (or even binoculars from a sufficiently dark sky). Look for it just over 1° northwest of 3rd-magnitude Zeta Tauri, the southern horn of Taurus.
The Crab Nebula (as Lord Rosse named the nebula in 1844) is a notoriously bland object, with a reputation for little detail. My previous observations have revealed the "pearly" elliptical glow with faint, twisted extensions giving it the overall appearance of a bloated "S", with subtle mottling across the face of the nebula. On the night of the current observation, under transparent skies and very steady seeing conditions, M1 was alive with subtle detail. During moments of fine seeing the tantalizing, mottled glow resolved into a bewildering cluster of knots and streamers of nebulosity. The high-magnification (120x) sketch presented here (composed over the course of about one hour) does not do justice to spectacle, but it is the best my finite skills could manage.