This eye-popping mosaic takes us inside the beautiful Carina Nebula

Illustration for article titled This eye-popping mosaic takes us inside the beautiful Carina Nebula

We've looked at the Carina Nebula before, but we've never looked into it. While the nebula is plenty beautiful in regular optical wavelengths, this infrared image allows us to peer behind the thick gas clouds to see the gorgeousness inside.


This image is the work of German astronomer Thomas Preibisch and his team, who combined hundreds of individual infrared photos taken by the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope to create this one breathtaking mosaic. While the massive stars that dominate the nebula take center stage, viewing the nebula in infrared also reveals hundreds of thousands of other, fainter stars that no previous image had revealed. The ESO adds some more vital info on this beauty:

The dazzling star Eta Carinae itself appears at the lower left of the new picture. It is surrounded by clouds of gas that are glowing under the onslaught of fierce ultraviolet radiation. Across the image there are also many compact blobs of dark material that remain opaque even in the infrared. These are the dusty cocoons in which new stars are forming.

Over the last few million years this region of the sky has formed large numbers of stars both individually and in clusters. The bright star cluster close to the centre of the picture is called Trumpler 14. Although this object is seen well in visible light, many more fainter stars can be seen in this infrared view. And towards the left side of the image a small concentration of stars that appear yellow can be seen. This grouping was seen for the first time in this new data from the VLT: these stars cannot be seen in visible light at all. This is just one of many new objects revealed for the first time in this spectacular panorama.


For more, including an even more detailed view of the nebula, check out the ESO website.

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"Carina Nebula" sounds like the name of an Italian disco-pop singer from 1977.