This image from the Hubble Telescope shows part of the Carina Nebula, located roughly 7,500 light-years from Earth. This massive cosmic cloud is a stellar incubator, but the newborn star found inside has to fight its way out by firing off powerful, super-fast jets. These energetic, narrowly focused jets are known as Herbig-Haro objects. Moving at hundreds of miles per second, these jets don't last long, at least not by cosmic standards — they dissipate after "only" a few thousand years.
In their description of this image, NASA offers an evocative take on how the new stars inside the cloud use these jets to slowly rip apart the nebula:
Inside the head of this interstellar monster is a star that is slowly destroying it. The monster, actually an inanimate pillar of gas and dust, measures over a light year in length. The star, not itself visible through the opaque dust, is bursting out partly by ejecting energetic beams of particles. Similar epic battles are being waged all over the star-forming Carina Nebula (NGC 3372). The stars will win in the end, destroying their pillars of creation over the next 100,000 years, and resulting in a new open cluster of stars. The pink dots are newly formed stars that have already been freed from their birth monster.
And here's a video from NASA that offers some remarkable close-up vistas of the Carina Nebula.
For more, check out NASA's Astronomy Photo of the Day.
Image Credit: NASA, ESA, N. Smith (U. California, Berkeley) et al., and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)