Cosmic Caterpillar

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

We continue our journey, exploring the giant creatures lurking in the glowing gas of the Carina Nebula.

In this part of the image from NASA‘s Hubble Space Telescope, we find a cosmic caterpillar hanging in the dust clouds. Actually this is a dense glob of gas and dust. They are called Bok globules. In the 1940s, astronomer Bart Bok first observed the dark globs of gas. Wondering what they could be, he theorized that these clouds are similar to cocoons. He believed that the blobs were pulling together under gravity and eventually would form into a new star or star cluster. This was a hard thing to prove because with our eyes we cannot see into the clouds. In the 1990s, with the help of infrared telescopes, scientists showed that there were warm objects within the globules. Stars were being born inside.

The Carina Nebula is about 7,500 light-years away toward the constellation Carina the Keel. Carina is a constellation in the southern hemisphere. it is part of an older constellation group called Argo Navis, after the ship that carried Jason and the Argonauts.

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