This paper explores the gathering of radio, optical and electromagnetic wavelength data in assembling images of the Crab Nebula (1844–2000). The author considers the expanding fields of astronomical and astrophysical knowledge to which such data analysis has given rise. She suggests that the data that makes such imaging possible moves us further from conventions of the optical real toward an algorithmic realism, alluding to time-scales that delimit and circumvent human time. Thus Cartesian metaphysics is displaced—the human becomes one agent among many in a process of algorithmic inference.

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