Twinkling stars blanket this new view of the Carina Nebula, a vast cloud of dust and gas that lies 7,500 light-years from Earth.
NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope captured this image in December 2022. The new picture isn’t of the whole nebula, which stretches 300 light-years across. Because of its enormous size, Hubble can only capture the nebula in bits and pieces.
The Carina Nebula is a nursery for stars. Within its clouds, gas and dust collapse to form stars with explosive results. The growing stars hurl harsh radioactive winds in all directions, causing the surrounding gas to glow while it’s swept away. Some of the Carina Nebula’s stars grow to 50 or 100 times the size of our sun.
Scientists study structures like the Carina Nebula to learn more about star birth, growth and death. There’s even a star within the nebula that might be approaching the end of its life. Named Eta Carina, it’s actually a system of two stars orbiting close together.
The system experienced a massive explosion more than 150 years ago, making it the brightest object in our night sky for a short time. But the stars survived that explosion, which means it’s not yet a dead star.