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The Carina Nebula in Infrared Light
Carina Nebula, NGC 3372
RA 10h 45m 15.91s Dec -59° 49' 28.98"
67.05 x 71.64 arcminutes
North is 0.1° right of vertical
ESO/J. Emerson/M. Irwin/J. Lewis
August 29, 2018
Other: 2000 2007 2009a 2009b 2010 2011a 2011b 2012a 2012b 2018
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ABOUT THIS IMAGE:
The Carina Nebula, one of the largest and brightest nebulae in the night sky, has been beautifully imaged by ESO's VISTA telescope at the Paranal Observatory in Chile. By observing in infrared light, VISTA has peered through the hot gas and dark dust enshrouding the nebula to show us myriad stars, both newborn and in their death throes.
About 7500 light-years away, in the constellation of Carina, lies a nebula within which stars form and perish side-by-side. Shaped by these dramatic events, the Carina Nebula is a dynamic, evolving cloud of thinly spread interstellar gas and dust.
The massive stars in the interior of this cosmic bubble emit intense radiation that causes the surrounding gas to glow. By contrast, other regions of the nebula contain dark pillars of dust cloaking newborn stars. There's a battle raging between stars and dust in the Carina Nebula, and the newly formed stars are winning - they produce high-energy radiation and stellar winds which evaporate and disperse the dusty stellar nurseries in which they formed.
Spanning over 300 light-years, the Carina Nebula is one of the Milky Way's largest star-forming regions and is easily visible to the unaided eye under dark skies. Unfortunately for those of us living in the north, it lies 60 degrees below the celestial equator, so is visible only from the Southern Hemisphere.
Within this intriguing nebula, Eta Carinae takes pride of place as the most peculiar star system. This stellar behemoth - a curious form of stellar binary- is the most energetic star system in this region and was one of the brightest objects in the sky in the 1830s. It has since faded dramatically and is reaching the end of its life, but remains one of the most massive and luminous star systems in the Milky Way.
Eta Carinae can be seen in this image as part of the bright patch of light just above the point of the "V" shape made by the dust clouds. Directly to the right of Eta Carinae is the relatively small Keyhole Nebula - a small, dense cloud of cold molecules and gas within the Carina Nebula - which hosts several massive stars, and whose appearance has also changed drastically over recent centuries.
Carina Nebula was discovered from the Cape of Good Hope by Nicolas Louis
de Lacaille in the 1750s and a huge number of images have been taken of
it since then. But VISTA - the Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope for
Astronomy - adds an unprecedented detailed view over a large area; its
infrared vision is perfect for revealing the agglomerations of young stars
hidden within the dusty material snaking through the Carina Nebula. In
2014, VISTA was used to pinpoint nearly five million individual sources
of infrared light within this nebula, revealing the vast extent of this
stellar breeding ground. VISTA is the world's largest infrared telescope
dedicated to surveys and its large mirror, wide field of view and exquisitely
sensitive detectors enable astronomers to unveil a completely new view
of the southern sky.