APOD: Evaporating Blobs of the Carina Nebula Image Credit: ESA/Hubble, NASA
Explanation: No, they are not alive — but they are dying. The unusual blobs found in the Carina nebula, some of which are seen floating on the upper right, might best be described as evaporating. Energetic light and winds from nearby stars are breaking apart the dark dust grains that make the iconic forms opaque. Ironically the blobs, otherwise known as dark molecular clouds, frequently create in their midst the very stars that later destroy them. The floating space mountains pictured above by the orbiting Hubble Space Telescope span a few light months. The Great Nebula in Carinaitself spans about 30 light years, lies about 7,500 light years away, and can be seen with a small telescope toward the constellation of Keel (Carina).
A stunning new image of the Carina nebula reveals cold, dusty cosmic clouds where violent and dynamic star formation is taking place.
These clouds of dust and gas play host to some of the most massive and luminous stars in our galaxy, which make them scintillating test beds for studying the interactions between these young stars and their parent molecular clouds.
The new observations were made with the Atacama Pathfinder Experiment (APEX) telescope, which is located about 16,700 feet (5,100 meters) above sea level at the Llano de Chajnantor Observatory in the Atacama desert in northern Chile.
A team of astronomers led by Thomas Preibisch, from the University Observatory Munich in Germany, captured images of the star-forming region in the Carina nebula in submillimeter light. At this wavelength, most of the light that can be seen is the weak heat glow from grains of cosmic dust, the researchers said.
This cosmic pillar of gas and dust is nearly 2 light-years wide. The structure lies within one of our galaxy’s largest star forming regions, the Carina Nebula, shining in southern skies. The pillar’s convoluted outlines are shaped by the winds and radiation of Carina’s young, hot, massive stars. But the interior of the cosmic pillar itself is home to stars in the process of formation.