Crab nebula outbursts shock astronomers

Spacecraft detect powerful gamma-ray flares from a supernova remnant known for its steady glow

By Ron Cowen, 15:08 PM December 7, 2010

HEIDELBERG, Germany — Astronomers consider the Crab nebula one of the steadiest sources of high-energy radiation in the universe. Radiation from the supernova remnant is believed to be so constant that astronomers use it as a standard candle with which to measure the energetic radiation of other astronomical sources.

That’s why researchers are astounded that two spacecraft recently recorded giant gamma-ray hiccups from the Crab, the remnants of a stellar explosion 6,500 light-years from Ea...

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