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News Release 2 of 169

October 27, 2016 10:00 AM (EDT)

News Release Number: STScI-2016-37

A Death Star's Ghostly Glow

October 27, 2016: In writer Edgar Allan Poe's short story "The Tell-Tale Heart," a killer confesses his crime after he thinks he hears the beating of his victim's heart. The heartbeat turns out to be an illusion. Astronomers, however, discovered a real "tell-tale heart" in space, 6,500 light-years from Earth. The "heart" is the crushed core of a long-dead star, called a neutron star, which exploded as a supernova and is now still beating with rhythmic precision. Evidence of its heartbeat are rapid-fire, lighthouse-like pulses of energy from the fast-spinning neutron star. The stellar relic is embedded in the center of the Crab Nebula, the expanding, tattered remains of the doomed star.

The nebula was first identified in 1731 and named in 1844. In 1928, Edwin Hubble linked the nebula to a supernova first witnessed in the spring of 1054 A.D. Now, the eerie glow of the burned-out star reveals itself in this new Hubble Space Telescope snapshot of the heart of the Crab Nebula. The green hue, representative of the broad color range of the camera filter used, gives the nebula a Halloween theme.

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Credit: NASA and ESA

Acknowledgment: M. Weisskopf (NASA Marshall Space Flight Center)