Stunning Panorama of Carina Nebula

While I may have posted not too long ago about the inevitable obsolescence of the Hubble Space Telescope, the old girl still impresses. NASA recently released the largest-ever visible image panorama on the 17th anniversary of the telescope.

The incredible detail is simply stunning, and exposes the process of stellar evolution as never before seen. Here are a few of the images, but do be sure to click through to the NASA site in order to see them in all their massive native-resolution glory.

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Hubble’s view of the Carina Nebula shows star birth in a new level of detail. The fantasy-like landscape of the nebula is sculpted by the action of outflowing winds and scorching ultraviolet radiation from the monster stars that inhabit this inferno. In the process, these stars are shredding the surrounding material that is the last vestige of the giant cloud from which the stars were born.

The immense nebula is an estimated 7,500 light-years away in the southern constellation Carina the Keel (of the old southern constellation Argo Navis, the ship of Jason and the Argonauts, from Greek mythology).

This image is a mosaic of the Carina Nebula assembled from 48 frames taken with Hubble Space Telescope’s Advanced Camera for Surveys. The Hubble images were taken in the light of ionized hydrogen. Colour information was added with data taken at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile. Red corresponds to sulfur, green to hydrogen, and blue to oxygen emission. Credit: NASA, ESA, N. Smith (University of California, Berkeley), and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)


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[Left] — A towering “mountain” of cold hydrogen gas laced with dust is the site of new star formation in the Carina Nebula. The great gas pillar is being eroded by the ultraviolet radiation from the hottest newborn stars in the nebula.

[Right] — A close-up look at the peak of one of these “pillars of creation” reveals unequivocal evidence that stars are being born inside the columns. A pencil-like streamer of gas shoots out in both directions from the pillar and ploughs into surrounding gas like a fire hose hitting a wall of sand. The jet is being launched from a newly forming star hidden inside the column. A similar jet appears near the bottom of the image. These stellar jets are a common signature of the birth of a new star. Credit: NASA, ESA, N. Smith (University of California, Berkeley), and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

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A series of so-called Bok globules from a mosaic of the Carina Nebula assembled from 48 frames taken with the Hubble Space Telescope’s Advanced Camera for Surveys. The island-like clumps of dark clouds scattered across the nebula are nodules of dust and gas that have so far resisted being eaten away by photoionisation.

One globule nicknamed the “caterpillar” is shown in the central image. Its glowing edge indicates that it is being photoionized by the hottest stars in the cluster. It has been hypothesized that stars may form inside such dusty cocoons. Credit: NASA, ESA, N. Smith (University of California, Berkeley), and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

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These three snapshots reveal nuggets of cold molecular hydrogen in the Carina Nebula. This Hubble Space Telescope view of the central region of the Carina Nebula reveals a violent maelstrom of star birth. The fantasy-like landscape of the nebula is sculpted by the intense pressure of starlight from monster stars and their accompanying star clusters, as well as the hydrodynamics of their stellar winds of charged particles.The glowing edges of some of these objects indicates that they are being photoionized by the hottest stars in the cluster. It has been hypothesized that stars may form inside such dusty cocoons. Credit: NASA, ESA, N. Smith (University of California, Berkeley), and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)


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[top] – An approximately one-light-year tall “pillar” of cold hydrogen towers above the wall of the molecular cloud. The 2.5-million-year-old star cluster called Trumpler 14 appears at the right side of the image. A small nugget of cold molecular hydrogen, called a Bok globule, is silhouetted against the star cluster.

[middle] – Detailed view of the central portion of the Carina Nebula near the so-called Keyhole Nebula.

[bottom] – These great clouds of cold hydrogen resemble summer afternoon thunderheads. They tower above the surface of a molecular cloud on the edge of the nebula. So-called “elephant trunk” pillars resist being heated and eaten away by blistering ultraviolet radiation from the nebula’s brightest stars.

Credit: NASA, ESA, N. Smith (University of California, Berkeley), and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

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