SN 1054 is a supernova that was first observed on 4 July 1054 and remained visible for around two years. The event was recorded in contemporary Chinese astronomy [..]. [There is] a pictograph associated with the Ancestral Puebloan (Anasazi) culture found near the Peñasco Blanco site in New Mexico. The remnant of SN 1054, which consists of debris ejected during the explosion, is known as the Crab Nebula (M1). It is located in the sky near the star Zeta Tauri (ζ Tauri) The core of the exploding star formed a pulsar called the Crab Pulsar. When the French astronomer Charles Messier watched for the return of Halley’s Comet in 1758, he confused the nebula for the comet as he was unaware of the former’s existence. Motivated by this error, he created his catalogue of non-cometary nebulous objects, the Messier Catalogue, to avoid such mistakes in the future. The nebula is catalogued as the first Messier object […].
Chinese astronomers watching the sky on July 4, 1054, noted the appearance of a new or guest star just above the southern horn of Taurus. Other observations of the explosion were recorded by Japanese, Arabic and Native American stargazers. In 1731, British astronomer John Bevis observed a cloudy blob in the sky and added it to his star atlas. Although [Messier] credited himself with its discovery in his first publication of the Messier Catalog, he acknowledged Bevis’ original finding in subsequent versions after receiving a letter from the astronomer. Around 1844, [Irish] astronomer William Parsons, the third Earl of Rosse, sketched the nebula. The resemblance of the image to a crustacean led to M1’s other name, the Crab Nebula. In the early 20th century, astronomers (Carl Lampland/1921 & Edwin Hubble/1928, included) were able to take more detailed measurements of M1 and determined that it is expanding. Working backwards, they determined its origination date and matched the explosion up with observations from Chinese and Native American records.
It is likely that skywatchers of the Anasazi People in the American Southwest also viewed the bright new star in 1054. Historic research shows that a crescent moon was visible in the sky very near the new star on the morning of July 5, the day following the observations by the Chinese. The pictograph above, from Chaco Canyon in New Mexico, is believed to depict the event. The multi-spiked star to the left represents the supernova near the crescent moon. The handprint above may signify the importance of the event, or may be the artist’s “signature.”
Happy 4th, everyone! ~Vic