New photo shows stellar life and death thousands of light-years away


Death and new life meet in a photo showing off a nebula located 7,500 light-years away. 

The Carina Nebula — recently photographed by the VISTA telescope in the Southern Hemisphere — is a 300-light-year-across area of gas and dust that gives rise to brand new stars as other, older objects die.

It’s thought to be one of the largest regions of star formation in the Milky Way, according to the European Southern Observatory (ESO). That makes this new view of the nebula all the better. 

“The massive stars in the interior of this cosmic bubble emit intense radiation that causes the surrounding gas to glow. By contrast, other regions of the nebula contain dark pillars of dust cloaking newborn stars,” the ESO said in a statement.

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“There’s a battle raging between stars and dust in the Carina Nebula, and the newly formed stars are winning — they produce high-energy radiation and stellar winds, which evaporate and disperse the dusty stellar nurseries in which they formed.”

The bizarre star system Eta Carinae can also be seen in the new image. The star system is thought to be a binary, with two objects orbiting each other.

“Eta Carinae can be seen in this image as part of the bright patch of light just above the point of the ‘V’ shape made by the dust clouds,” the ESO said. 

A full view of the Carina Nebula

A full view of the Carina Nebula

Image: ESO/J. Emerson/M. Irwin/J. Lewis

“Directly to the right of Eta Carinae is the relatively small Keyhole Nebula — a small, dense cloud of cold molecules and gas within the Carina Nebula — which hosts several massive stars, and whose appearance has also changed drastically over recent centuries.”

According to ESO, Eta Carinae was exceedingly bright in the 1830s, but since then has faded somewhat, moving toward its stellar death.

If you’re interested in spotting the Carina Nebula or Eta Carinae, you can check them out from the Southern Hemisphere without the aid of a telescope or binoculars. 

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