The spectacular Carina Nebula is a wondrous and fascinating place. Nestled within the Carina constellation, this nebula is “one of the largest and brightest nebulae in the night sky,” notes the European Southern Observatory (ESO).
Stretching more than 300 light-years across, the Carina Nebula is so large and dazzling that it’s visible to the naked eye — provided you live in the Southern Hemisphere.
Located in one of the Milly Way’s minor spiral arms, known as the Carina-Sagittarius Arm, the Carina Nebula sits 7,500 light-years away from our planet and is home to the unruly double star Eta Carinae and the peculiar Homunculus Nebula, the Inquisitr previously reported.
The Carina Nebula is also among the largest star-birthing regions of our galaxy, hosting an incredibly vast stellar nursery. Right next to the newborn stars, others found at the end of their life cycle are drawing their last breaths, making the Carina Nebula a place where “stars form and perish side-by-side,” notes ESO.
All this bustling activity is cloaked by large clouds of gas and dust surrounding the nebula, which obscure it from our sight. This means that, under normal circumstances, taking a good look at what goes on inside the Carina Nebula can be quite tricky.
However, ESO’s Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy (VISTA) telescope at the Paranal Observatory in Chile has managed to peer through the gas and dust clouds enveloping this previously obscured region of the Milky Way.
Gazing into the heart of the Carina Nebula, VISTA has spotted the “thinly spread interstellar gas and dust” floating among its stars, yielding a stunning infrared view of the interstellar matter within the nebula.
“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,” ESO detailed in the photo release.
Unveiled on August 29 by the observatory, this mesmerizing photo captures the cosmic “battle” between the glowing gas around the nebula’s massive stars and the dark pillars of dust enveloping newborn stars.
“There’s a battle raging between stars and dust in the Carina Nebula, and the newly formed stars are winning,” explained ESO officials, noting that the nebula’s newborn stars blast the dust clouds with high-energy radiation and stellar winds, “which evaporate and disperse the dusty stellar nurseries in which they formed.”
As the world’s largest infrared survey telescope, VISTA has incredible infrared vision, which “is perfect for revealing the agglomerations of young stars hidden within the dusty material snaking through the Carina Nebula,” stated ESO officials.
In 2014, the telescope helped astronomers locate nearly five million individual sources of infrared light within the Carina Nebula, “revealing the vast extent of this stellar breeding ground,” notes the observatory’s website.