Stars Form and Perish Simultaneously in Carina Nebula

Stars Form and Perish Simultaneously in Carina Nebula

Credit: ESO

The Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy (VISTA) shows an intense battle is going on between the stars and the dust inside one of the most luminous objects of the Milky Way.

The Carina Nebula, located in the Carina Sagittarius Arm, is one of the brightest objects in the night sky. It lies at an estimated distance of 7,500 light years from the Earth. Despite the fact that it is four times larger and much brighter than the Orion Nebula, it never got the same spotlight primarily due to its location in the southern sky. Carina Nebula is one of the largest star-forming regions of the Milky Way as it is spread over an area of more than 300 light years. It is clearly visible to the naked eye given you reside somewhere in the Southern Hemisphere because it lies 60o below the celestial equator.

Carina Nebula homes the youngest known star cluster (Trumpler 14) and the brightest star (Trumpler 16) of our galaxy. Talking about stars, this nebula offers an amazing phenomenon where stars form and perish side-by-side. The VISTA Telescope of the European Southern Observatory (ESO), mounted at the Paranal Observatory in Chile, captured some outstanding images of the Carina Nebula which showed myriad stars, both newborn and the ones in their dying moments. VISTA used infrared light to make these observations seeing through a massive pool of dark dust and hot gas.

There is a fierce battle going on between the dust cloak engulfing the newborn stars and the glow-inducing massive stars found in the interior of the Carina Nebula. In light of the images taken by the VISTA telescope, it seems as if the newly-born stars are winning at least for the moment. The stellar winds and the high-energy radiations produced by these stars disperse and ultimately evaporate the dusty stellar nurseries which gave birth to them.

Nicolas Louis de Lacaille discovered the Carina Nebula in 1752. Since then, a lot of pictures of this nebula has been taken but the images provided by the VISTA are unprecedented because they offer immense details over a large area. The infrared abilities of the telescope allow it to reveal the agglomerations of young stars hidden within the dark dust of the Carina Nebula. One of the most popular proofs of VISTA’s capabilities came in 2014 when it detected 5 million individual sources of infrared light with this nebula.

Eta Carinae, the most peculiar star system of all, also resides within this Nebula. It was one of the brightest objects in the 1830s but has faded dramatically since then. Having said that, it is still among the most luminous star systems of the Milky Way. You can clearly see a bright patch of light indicating Eta Carinae just above the point of the ‘V’ shape made by the dust clouds. Similarly, you can also observe the Keyhole Nebula to the right of Eta Carinae in the images captured by the VISTA telescope of ESA. Just like Eta Carinae, the outlook of the Keyhole Nebula has also changed a lot in the past couple of centuries. Get a glimpse of all that for yourself by watching the following video:

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