I recently ran into this NASA Hubble image of the Crab Nebula in this article talking about its core. What I am interested to know though is: what are these round dark spots appearing in the image (upper right, lower center and lower left for example)? "Holes" in the Nebula? Objects in front of the Nebula, visible against its illuminated gas? Blemishes in Hubbles lens(es)?

CLARIFICATION: I am asking about the small pixel like dots. Not the large "holes" from this question.

enter image description here

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    $\begingroup$ Derived from cell like blobs in the atmosphere progenitor star? aRxiv, Oct 2016: Dusty globules in the Crab Nebula: arxiv.org/abs/1610.08449 (full pdf available at link) $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 29, 2016 at 14:12
  • $\begingroup$ @JoeBlow Look at the linkage I provided. In this case, they are real. I'd've made my comment an answer, but didn't see a practical way to flesh it out. One paper in aRxiv is not equal to "written in stone". $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 30, 2016 at 15:18
  • $\begingroup$ @WayfaringStranger, thanks for the link! I'll dig into that. So it sounds like the best we have are hypotheses? Interesting! $\endgroup$
    – Martin
    Commented Oct 30, 2016 at 16:32
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    $\begingroup$ HDE, sorry you wasted your time. It was a very informative post, actually, and pointed out and explained something that I wasn't aware of but found very interesting. Bummer you retracted the answer, I'll post a new question. I would like to know more about the large round "holes". $\endgroup$
    – Martin
    Commented Oct 30, 2016 at 16:35
  • $\begingroup$ @Martin If I learn something new while writing an answer, it's never a waste of time. Anyway, I added it to your new question. $\endgroup$
    – HDE 226868
    Commented Oct 30, 2016 at 16:51

1 Answer 1


They are most likely dense clumps of dust absorbing whatever wavelength of light this image was captured in. It's hard to say just how big they are as I can't find any scale for this image, but generally nebulae are lightyears massive, with the Crab Nebula according to wiki being 11 light years. So whatever they are, they're still pretty big.

Edit: Just look at the horizontal band of darker lumps, you can tell that they are between us and the brighter region. The band would be of the same material as the bright green cloud, just less energised as it is further away from the star.


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