Crab Nebula


Crab Nebula



This scientifically accurate sculpture of the Crab Nebula would make a perfect gift for astronomers.

Crystal Nebulae specialises in producing three-dimensional sculptures of astronomical objects. We draw on the expertise of top professional astronomers to bring together the latest data in order to produce scientifically accurate representations of these objects. The sculptures are generated by firing an ultra-precision laser into 6 cm cubes of optical quality K9 crystal glass. This system focuses intense laser light at points inside the block, thereby generating minute (50 micro-metre) marks in the glass, which show up as tiny “frosted” marks. The resulting high-resolution three-dimensional sculptures beautifully reproduce both the intricacy of these objects and their ethereal appearance.

While photographs and digital images provide an accurate representation of the Crab Nebula as viewed from Earth, they do not tell us about the three-dimensional structure of the remnant, because we cannot tell where along the line of sight the emission originated.

Fortunately, there is more information that can be obtained by splitting the light into the colours of the rainbow – a spectrum. The gas that makes up the Crab Nebula emits most of its light at very specific wavelengths, which provide a unique “fingerprint” of the elements it contains. Moreover, these lines will be shifted by the Doppler effect to slightly shorter wavelengths if the gas is coming toward us, and redder ones if it is moving away. So, for an expanding shell like the Crab Nebula, material on the near side will have its emission lines blue-shifted and those on the far side redshifted. Moreover, in an explosion like this supernova, the material travelling the fastest will have got the furthest from the centre, so the measured shift in these lines also tells us how far the gas is from the centre of the nebula, allowing the complete three-dimensional structure of the Crab to be reconstructed.

Professor Mike Merrifield discusses a new perspective of the Crab Nebula, also known as Messier 1 – see Deep Sky Video at


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