Image Tour: The Carina Nebula

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A flurry of star birth at the center with many massive stars, Eta Carina seems to be preparing for an outburst.

Produced by the Space Telescope Science Institute’s Office of Public Outreach in collaboration with NASA’s Universe of Learning partners: Caltech/IPAC, Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and Sonoma State University

  • Images of the Carina Nebula: STScI

Text, The Carina Nebula, Image Tour. Fast Facts, Location, Constellation Carina (the Keel), Distance from Earth, 7,500 light-years, Size, 50 light-years across, Telescope, Hubble Space Telescope
A flurry of star birth and star death generates the dynamic forces that shape the heart of the Carina Nebula.
The Carina Nebula is home to some of the most massive stars known.
Some of them could be 100 times more massive than our Sun.
Radiation from these stars heats the surrounding gas, causing it to glow.
Unstable and prone to violent outbursts, the super massive star Eta Carinae is near the end of its life and is on the verge of exploding as a titanic supernova
Interruption witnessed in the 1840s blew out two circular lobes of gas and dust that are billowing away from the giant star.
The keyhole nebula is a huge cloud of gas and dust that reflects the light of Eta Carinae.
During Eta Carinae’s last significant outburst about 165 years ago, the Keyhole Nebula appeared much brighter than it does today..
About 3 million years ago, clumps of gas and dust in the Carina Nebula collapsed to form the nebulas first stars.
Some of these stars are grouped together in a a cluster called Trumpler 14.
The ferocious blast of stellar winds from hot young stars carves a huge bubble in the nebula.
Some dense clumps along the bubble's edge resist erosion.
Star-forming regions at the top and bottom of a dotted circle. Text, The pressure triggers new star formation there.
Bright towers of gold hydrogen gas laced with dust point toward two massive stars.
Radiation from the stars is steadily chipping away at these pillars.
The streamers of gas shoot out from newly forming stars hidden inside the tips of these dusty peaks.
Two dark dusty pillars tower above a shady cloud of molecular hydrogen.
These bent pillars are resisting the erosive force of stellar radiation.
New stars, still hidden from view, are probably forming within these dense clouds.
Dark blobs of cold dust and gas stand out against the background nebulosity like tiny islands.
These clouds, called Bok globules, are fighting erosion caused by winds and radiation from nearby stars and are likely forming new stars themselves.
Stellar radiation causes the edges of some globules to glow.
Elsewhere, black globules resembling splotches of ink appear to be shielded from the radiation and do not glow.
A dark, tadpole-like cloud appears to be giving birth to a hidden star.
The bright, diagonal feature and the twisted "tail" might be caused by jets of gas blasting away from the star.
A row of text across the bottom, Massive Stars, Eta Carinae, Keyhole Nebula, Star Cluster, Bubble, Bright Pillars, Dark Pillars, Bok Blobules, "Tadpole"