October 2009 — The Carina Nebula

The Carina Nebula is a large, bright nebula that surrounds several clusters of stars. It contains two of the most massive and luminous stars in our Milky Way Galaxy: Eta Carinae and HD 93129A. Located 7500 light-years away, the nebula itself spans some 260 light-years, about seven times the size of the Orion Nebula and is shown in all its glory in this mosaic. It is based on images collected with the 1.5-metre Danish telescope at ESO’s La Silla Observatory. Being brighter than one million Suns, Eta Carinae (the brightest star in this image) is the most luminous star known in the Galaxy, and has most likely a mass over 100 times that of the Sun. It is the closest example of a luminous blue variable, the last phase in the life of a very massive star before it explodes in a fiery supernova.

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ESO/IDA/Danish 1.5 m/R. Gendler, J-E. Ovaldsen, C. Thöne, and C. Feron

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