The Carina Nebula

The Carina Nebula (also known as the Great Nebula in Carina) is one of the largest and brightest nebulae in the sky. Strong winds and powerful radiation from the host of massive stars born in this large cloud of dust and gas are now wreaking havoc there.

The Carina Nebula is located about 9,000 light-years away in the constellation of the same name (Carina, the Keel). Spanning about 100 light-years, it is four times larger than the famous Orion Nebula and far brighter. It is an intensive star-forming region with dark lanes of cool dust splitting up the glowing nebula gas that surrounds its many clusters of stars.

The glow of the Carina Nebula comes mainly from hot hydrogen basking in the strong radiation from over a dozen monstrously large “baby” stars. The interaction between hydrogen and the ultraviolet light results in the nebula’s characteristic red and purple colours.

One of the most impressive stars known, Eta Carinae, is found in the nebula. It is one of the most massive stars in our Milky Way, containing over 100 times the mass of the Sun. Eta Carinae shines about four million times brighter than the Sun, making it the most luminous star on record. Eta Carinae is highly unstable and prone to violent outbursts, most notably a “false” supernova event that occurred in 1843. For a few years, Eta Carinae became the second brightest star in the night sky and produced almost as much visible light as a supernova explosion, yet it survived these stellar pyrotechnics. Eta Carinae is also thought to have a hot companion star that orbits it in about five-and-a-half years.


ESO/S. Brunier

About the Image

Release date:3 December 2009, 23:19
Size:1574 x 1377 px

About the Object

Name:Carina Nebula, NGC 3372
Type:Milky Way : Nebula

Image Formats

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