On July 4, 1054 A.D. Chinese, Japanese, Native American, and Arab astronomers noticed a new star that was about four times brighter than Venus. According to the records, it was visible in daylight for 23 days, and 653 days to the naked eye in the night sky. This was SN 1054, one of only a dozen supernovae historically observed in our own galaxy. This is how Anasazi people in Chaco Canyon (present-day New Mexico) depicted this extrodinary event:
Remnant of the supernova was discovered by John Bevis in 1731. Later, he added it to his sky atlas Uranographia Britannica; it’s the faintly painted nebula slightly upper-right of Zeta, at the tip of the lower horn of Taurus the Bull:
The object was named “Crab Nebula” by William Parsons, the Third Earl of Rosse, based on a drawing he made with his 36-inch telescope circa 1844:
In 1848, Lord Rosse repeated his observations with a bigger 72-inch reflector, and saw a very different picture:
No surprise there; these days we usually see Crab Nebula looking something like this:
- Photos by Ron Lussier (left) and Mark Lansing (right).
- J. Bevis, Uranographia Britannica, around 1750. Full scan.
- Image by Hubble Space Telescope.