NASA has released a composite image of the Crab Nebula with unprecedented detail.

The image encompasses almost all of the electromagnetic spectrum. Radio waves are seen in red, infrared in yellow, visible in green, ultraviolet in blue and X-ray in purple.

In order to obtain the image, five different telescopes were used: the Very Large Array, Spitzer, Hubble, XMM-Newton and Chandra.

The Crab Nebula was created when a star, located 6,500 light-years from Earth, exploded in a spectacular supernova. The supernova, which spans about 10 light-years, was chronicled by the Chinese in 1054. Since then the cloud has been expanding, as seen in the video below.

M1: The Crab Nebula Supernova Remnant (animation) from Adam Block on Vimeo.

At the heart of the nebula is a neutron star, seen at the centre of the image. This star, also known as a pulsar, spins once every 33 milliseconds, sending out a beam of radio waves and light, like a lighthouse in the cosmos. It's also relatively tiny — about the size of a small town — but it weighs as much as our own sun.