From European Southern Observatory: “Stars v. Dust in the Carina Nebula”

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From European Southern Observatory

29 August 2018
Jim Emerson
School of Physics & Astronomy, Queen Mary University of London
London, UK
Email: j.p.emerson@qmul.ac.uk

Calum Turner
Public Information Officer
Garching bei München, Germany
Tel: +49 89 3200 6670
Email: pio@eso.org

VISTA gazes into one of the largest nebulae in the Milky Way in infrared

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The Carina Nebula, one of the largest and brightest nebulae in the night sky, has been beautifully imaged by ESO’s VISTA telescope at the Paranal Observatory in Chile. By observing in infrared light, VISTA has peered through the hot gas and dark dust enshrouding the nebula to show us myriad stars, both newborn and in their death throes.

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This image is a colour composite made from exposures from the Digitized Sky Survey 2 (DSS2). The field of view is approximately 4.7 x 4.9 degrees. Credit: ESO/Digitized Sky Survey 2. Acknowledgement: Davide De Martin.


ESOcast 175 Light: Stars and Dust in the Carina Nebula (4K UHD)
The VISTA telescope has allowed us to peer through the hot gas and dark dust shrouding the spectacular Carina nebula to show us myriad stars, both newborn and in their death throes.

The video is available in 4K UHD.

The ESOcast Light is a series of short videos bringing you the wonders of the Universe in bite-sized pieces. The ESOcast Light episodes will not be replacing the standard, longer ESOcasts, but complement them with current astronomy news and images in ESO press releases. Credit: ESO.
Directed by: Nico Bartmann.
Editing: Nico Bartmann.
Web and technical support: Mathias André and Raquel Yumi Shida.
Written by: Ivana Kurecic and Calum Turner.
Music: tonelabs.
Footage and photos: ESO, G. Hüdepohl (atacamaphoto.com), DSS, N. Risinger (skysurvey.org), M. Kornmesser.
Executive producer: Lars Lindberg Christensen


The VISTA telescope has allowed us to peer through the hot gas and dark dust shrouding the spectacular Carina nebula to show us myriad stars, both newborn and in their death throes. This visualisation shows a 3D conversion of images of the Carina Nebula. Credit: ESO, M. Kornmesser

About 7500 light-years away, in the constellation of Carina, lies a nebula within which stars form and perish side-by-side. Shaped by these dramatic events, the Carina Nebula is a dynamic, evolving cloud of thinly spread interstellar gas and dust.

The massive stars in the interior of this cosmic bubble emit intense radiation that causes the surrounding gas to glow. By contrast, other regions of the nebula contain dark pillars of dust cloaking newborn stars. There’s a battle raging between stars and dust in the Carina Nebula, and the newly formed stars are winning — they produce high-energy radiation and stellar winds which evaporate and disperse the dusty stellar nurseries in which they formed.

Spanning over 300 light-years, the Carina Nebula is one of the Milky Way’s largest star-forming regions and is easily visible to the unaided eye under dark skies. Unfortunately for those of us living in the north, it lies 60 degrees below the celestial equator, so is visible only from the Southern Hemisphere.

Within this intriguing nebula, Eta Carinae takes pride of place as the most peculiar star system.

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The Carina Nebula (catalogued as NGC 3372; also known as the Grand Nebula, Great Nebula in Carina, or Eta Carinae Nebula) is a large, complex area of bright and dark nebulosity in the constellation Carina, and is located in the Carina–Sagittarius Arm. The nebula lies at an estimated distance between 6,500 and 10,000 light-years (2,000 and 3,100 pc) from Earth.

This stellar behemoth — a curious form of stellar binary— is the most energetic star system in this region and was one of the brightest objects in the sky in the 1830s. It has since faded dramatically and is reaching the end of its life, but remains one of the most massive and luminous star systems in the Milky Way.

Eta Carinae can be seen in this image as part of the bright patch of light just above the point of the “V” shape made by the dust clouds. Directly to the right of Eta Carinae is the relatively small Keyhole Nebula — a small, dense cloud of cold molecules and gas within the Carina Nebula — which hosts several massive stars, and whose appearance has also changed drastically over recent centuries.

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Colour-composite image of the Keyhole, a dark nebula within the Carina Nebula.
Date 12 February 2009 (released)
Source http://www.eso.org/public/images/eso0905a/
Author ESO

The Carina Nebula was discovered from the Cape of Good Hope by Nicolas Louis de Lacaille in the 1750s and a huge number of images have been taken of it since then. But VISTA — the Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy — adds an unprecedentedly detailed view over a large area; its infrared vision is perfect for revealing the agglomerations of young stars hidden within the dusty material snaking through the Carina Nebula. In 2014, VISTA was used to pinpoint nearly five million individual sources [Astronomy and Astrophysics] of infrared light within this nebula, revealing the vast extent of this stellar breeding ground. VISTA is the world’s largest infrared telescope dedicated to surveys and its large mirror, wide field of view and exquisitely sensitive detectors enable astronomers [1] to unveil a completely new view of the southern sky.

Notes

[1] The Principal Investigator of the observing proposal which led to this spectacular image was Jim Emerson (School of Physics & Astronomy, Queen Mary University of London, UK). His collaborators were Simon Hodgkin and Mike Irwin (Cambridge Astronomical Survey Unit, Cambridge University, UK). The data reduction was performed by Mike Irwin and Jim Lewis (Cambridge Astronomical Survey Unit, Cambridge University, UK).

Links

More information about VISTA
Photos of VISTA
More ESO images of the Carina Nebula

See the full article here .


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ESO is the foremost intergovernmental astronomy organisation in Europe and the world’s most productive ground-based astronomical observatory by far. It is supported by 16 countries: Austria, Belgium, Brazil, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Finland, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, along with the host state of Chile. ESO carries out an ambitious programme focused on the design, construction and operation of powerful ground-based observing facilities enabling astronomers to make important scientific discoveries. ESO also plays a leading role in promoting and organising cooperation in astronomical research. ESO operates three unique world-class observing sites in Chile: La Silla, Paranal and Chajnantor. At Paranal, ESO operates the Very Large Telescope, the world’s most advanced visible-light astronomical observatory and two survey telescopes. VISTA works in the infrared and is the world’s largest survey telescope and the VLT Survey Telescope is the largest telescope designed to exclusively survey the skies in visible light. ESO is a major partner in ALMA, the largest astronomical project in existence. And on Cerro Armazones, close to Paranal, ESO is building the 39-metre EEuropean Extremely Large Telescope, the E-ELT, which will become “the world’s biggest eye on the sky”.

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ESO 2.2 meter telescope at La Silla, 600 km north of Santiago de Chile at an altitude of 2400 metres.

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ESO VLT Platform at Cerro Paranal elevation 2,635 m (8,645 ft)

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ESO/NTT at Cerro La Silla, Chile, at an altitude of 2400 metres

ESO/Vista Telescope at Cerro Paranal, with an elevation of 2,635 metres (8,645 ft) above sea level

ESO/NRAO/NAOJ ALMA Array in Chile in the Atacama at Chajnantor plateau, at 5,000 metres

ESO/E-ELT,to be on top of Cerro Armazones in the Atacama Desert of northern Chile, at an altitude 3,046 m (9,993 ft)

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Leiden MASCARA cabinet at ESO Cerro la Silla located in the southern Atacama Desert 600 kilometres (370 mi) north of Santiago de Chile at an altitude of 2,400 metres (7,900 ft)

ESO Next Generation Transit Survey at Cerro Paranel, 2,635 metres (8,645 ft) above sea level

SPECULOOS four 1m-diameter robotic telescopes 2016 in the ESO Paranal Observatory, 2,635 metres (8,645 ft) above sea level

ESO TAROT telescope at Paranal, 2,635 metres (8,645 ft) above sea level

ESO ExTrA telescopes at Cerro LaSilla at an altitude of 2400 metres