Astronomers have combined hundreds of images to provide most dramatic and detailed picture ever seen of the Carina Nebula, a massive star formation located about 7,500 light-years from Earth.
While the nebula itself is pretty stunning under normal conditions, scientists at the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope have used an infrared HAWK-I camera to ‘cut through’ the thick clouds of gas and dust that normally hide smaller celestial bodies – revealing hundreds of thousands previously unseen stars, some of which are 10 times less massive than the sun.
One of the stars within Carina Nebula, the mysterious and highly unstable star Eta Carinae, was the second brightest star in the entire night sky for several years in the 1840s.
It is likely to explode as a supernova in the near future in astronomical terms, say the ESA scientists, causing a burst of radiation that often briefly outshines an entire galaxy, before fading from view over several weeks or months.
Eta Carinae appears near the lower left corner of the new image (seen above). It is surrounded by clouds of gas that are glowing under the onslaught of fierce ultraviolet radiation from newborn stars.
Another star group within Carina, The Trumpler 14 cluster, can be easily spotted in visible light images, but in this infrared view, many fainter stars can also be detected
Toward the left side of the image (below), a small concentration of yellowish stars can be seen. This stellar grouping, which cannot be seen in visible light, was spotted for the first time in the new data from the VLT, ESO officials said.
For more previously unseen images of the amazing Carina Nebula, watch the following video clip:
Images & Source: Space.com