The Carina Nebula is a humongous cloud of gas and dust that serves as home to many massive and bright stars, including some that between 50 to 100 times the mass of our Sun. The nebula is an emission nebula, which means that the radiation from its stars ionises the gas, causing it to glow.
Carina is a particularly dynamic area of the sky with constant bursts of star formation happening concurrently with star deaths. As stars form, they begin producing intense ultraviolet radiation and their stellar winds disperse the gas and dust around them. Sometimes, this forms dark, dusty cloaks and sometimes this ends up creating empty patches where stars become clearly visible.
Astronomers took this image of Carina by using Hubble’s infrared imaging capabilities to detect light of longer wavelengths not scattered by the heavy dust and gas around the stars. The image depicts a small section of the nebula, located near the centre in an area where the gas is thinner.
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The nebula’s immense size — measuring about 300 light-years across —means that astronomers can only study it in sections by piecing together separate images to get a better understanding of its large-scale structure and composition. Interestingly, the nebula is visible with the naked eye from the southern hemisphere of our planet.