Posts Tagged ‘carina nebula’

Becoming Supernova

Credit: ESA/Hubble and NASA


Hidden in this churning and expanding nebula is a supernova on the verge of being.

Explore Eta Carinae or the Homonculus Nebula. What stories or shapes do you see? Leave a note below.

Eta Carinae is a star on the brink of ultimate death. Scientists expect it to become a supernova at any moment; or within the next million years. Supernovae are the ultimate end of massive stars. Huge stars like Eta Carinae are tens of times more massive than our Sun. They burn through their hydrogen fuel within just a few million years. At the end of their lives, they become unstable and explode. Supernovae release so much energy that for short periods of time they outshine an entire galaxy. This process sprinkles space with elements heavier than oxygen, such as neon, silicon, aluminum, iron, potassium, iron, and gold. The elements needed for life on Earth were created in a supernova blast billions of years ago.

Astronomers just don’t know the exact time of death. The star varies in brightness through time. At the beginning of the 19th century, the binary star system was faint; hardly visible against the background of stars. By April 1843, the star was the second brightest star in the sky behind Sirius. The star dimmed again in the 20th century. Today, it is visible to the naked eye.

The dumbbell shape of material has been thrown the star in waves creating uneven lobes and spikes in the nebula. When astronomers viewed the nebula through telescopes in the 1800s, the lobes of matter resembled a person. They called it the Homonculus Nebula. This image is the the most detailed Hubble image yet of the star.

Eta Carinae is found about 7,500 light years from Earth within the vast star-making cloud known as the Carina Nebula. Both are within the constellation Carina, the Keel of Jason’s mythical ship the Argo.

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Secrets in Carina’s Dust

Credit: ESO/T. Preibisch

Sea monsters, birds and mystic mountains hide in this detailed infrared image of the Carina Nebula from ESO‘s Very Large Telescope.

Explore the cool details of the stellar nursery known as the Carina Nebula. What shapes and stories do you see? Leave a note below.

The Carina Nebula is one of the most active star-making factories in the Milky Way Galaxy. Nebulae are clouds of glowing gas and dust; perfect ingredients for making stars. The Carina Nebula is one of the largest nebulae known. It not only home to regular stars like our Sun but also the nebula houses some of the heaviest and most massive stars known. The bright area in the lower left is one of these stars. Known as Eta Carinae, this star, surrounded by arcs of glowing clouds, has been the second brightest star in our Earth skies. Its light changes over time and astronomers think that it may explode in a supernova in the near future.

The nebula is a favorite among the amazing images from NASA‘s Hubble Space Telescope. That image taken in visible light shows many details. But looking at objects in space with infrared telescopes allows astronomers to peer into clouds of dust. We feel infrared as heat. With an infrared camera, we can see warm objects glowing inside the clouds of dust. These warm objects tend to be newborn stars still veiled in the dust clouds that created them. In both visible and infrared images, look for inky blobs of material. These cold, compact blobs of dust are known as Bok globules. They may be cocoons for new stars.

The nebula makes individual stars and also produces some star clusters. The bright cluster of stars near the center of the image is called Trumpler 14. This region can be seen in the Hubble image but many more stars are visible here. The yellowish cluster of stars to the left of Trumpler 14 can only be seen in infrared. It was discovered for the first time in this image. It appears yellow because thick dust scatters the light of the cluster making it yellowish or reddish much like the red sunsets we have on Earth. Astronomers use images like this to find fainter and smaller stars. They may even be able to see very faint, and cool brown dwarfs. Brown dwarfs are stars that didn’t quite make it as stars because they were too small to start nuclear fires within their cores.

The Carina Nebula is found about 7,500 light-years from Earth toward the constellation Carina, the Keel of Jason’s ship, the Argo.

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A twisting and turning sea

Credit: NASA/ESA and Hubble

Dark dust twists and turns in this image of the Carina Nebula from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope.

Explore the glowing gas and dark blobs. What stories can you tell? Leave a note below.

This image is just a tiny part of the vast Carina Nebula. The nebula is a star-making factory about 7,500 light-years from Earth toward the constellation Carina, the Keel of Jason’s ship the Argo from Greek mythology. The abundance of gas and dust makes it a perfect place for stars to form. Gravity pulls globs of dust closer together. As more material piles up, it starts to warm up and eventually gets hot enough for hydrogen atoms to begin to fuse. The inky dark blobs in the upper right of the image may be cocoons for new stars. Astronomers call them Bok Globules, after American astronomer Bart Bok who first described them in the 1940s.

Some big stars have already been born from the nebula. These stars blaze so brightly and give off so much radiation that it carves the nebula into incredible shapes. The stars radiation also excites atoms in the cloud causing them to glow like a neon sign.

A thin veil of dust lies between Earth and the glowing background. Just like clouds on Earth, the dust clouds in the nebula flow, swirl and twist with unseen currents.

Starry Hunter

Credit: ESO

A hunter lurks in a starry sea in this image from the European Southern Observatory.

Explore the colorful regions of gas and dark dust clouds of the Carina Nebula around the blazingly brilliant star called WR 22. What shapes and stories can your imagination tell? Share them below.

WR 22 is one of those stars that lives fast and dies young. This rare star is very hot and massive star and is bursting with so much radiation and solar wind that is shedding its atmosphere into space. Formed from the Carina Nebula, WR 22 is known as a Wolf-Rayet star. It is one of the most massive stars known. These stars are more than 20 times more massive than our Sun and lose material to space at a much higher rate.

French astronomers Charles Wolf and Georges Rayet discovered this class of stars in 1867. WR 22 lies about 5,000 light-years from Earth toward the constellation Carina, the keel of Jason’s ship Argo from Greek mythology. The image was taken with the Wide Field Imager on the MPG/ESO 2.2-meter telescope at the La Silla Observatory in Chile.

Glowy, swirly jungle

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

If you set out to find a starry version of “Where the Wild Things Are,” you’d find it in the Carina Nebula. All week, we’ve been exploring the way the swirls in the star cloud look like animals; a swift, caterpillar and an eagle, and sea monsters.

But it’s more than that. We find that giant stars, on the verge of going supernova, cause the gas to swirl and glow. And inky, dark dust globs, called Bok globules, hide new stars. We see all this in the larger mosaic of images taken by NASA‘s Hubble Space Telescope.

From side to side, the entire Carina Nebula spans 300 light years. A light year is the distance light travels in a year, about 6 trillion miles. It is a very large nebula in Earth’s skies but it lies far in the southern hemisphere so it’s not well known. Astronomer Nicolas Louis de Lacaille discovered the nebula in 1751-52 during a science trip to the Cape of Good Hope at the tip of Africa.

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.


The ancient peoples saw pictures in the sky. From those patterns in the heavens, ancient storytellers created legends about heroes, maidens, dragons, bears, centaurs, dogs and mythical creatures...
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