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The Carina Nebula (NGC 3372) in Optical Light
Hidden Treasures of the Carina Nebula
This image shows the Great Nebula in Carina (NGC 3372) in optical light. This majestic nebula is one of the largest nebulae in the sky and lies about 7,500 light years distant in the Southern constellation of Carina, The Keel. Several star clusters containing some of the brightest and most massive stars known are found here, including the extremely luminous hypergiant star Eta Carinae - one of the prime candidates for the next supernova explosion in our galaxy.
Images of the Carina Nebula taken in visible light primarily display the striking magenta colour from glowing Hydrogen gas, as well as large dark obscuring clouds of dust. Some notable features are visible in this high resolution view of the central part of the nebula:
Trumpler 14 is one of the youngest and most luminous star clusters in our galaxy. The fierce ultraviolet radiation from its blue giant stars is slowly eroding the surrounding gas and dust away and sculpting huge dark pillars in the process.
At the core of the nebula lies the famous Keyhole (upside-down in this view), a constellation of dark clouds and glowing gas that resembles a giant keyhole.
Also visible throughout the image are numerous Bok globules, which are small dark clouds where new stars are likely forming. These often appear as small dark specks floating in front of the glowing background gas.
The most prominent feature is the unstable hypergiant star Eta Carinae. This, the most luminous star known in our Galaxy, is 100 times more massive than our Sun and 5 million times as bright. The star has entered the final stage of its life and is highly unstable. It is a likely candidate for the next supernova explosion in our galaxy.
Eta Carinae produces giant outbursts from time to time, with the small hourglass shaped Homunculus Nebula being the result of the most recent event in 1841. At that time, and despite its large distance of 7,500 light-years, Eta Carinae briefly became the second brightest star in the night sky, surpassed only by Sirius.
Date: 8th, 10th and 11th February 2013
Exposure: LRGB: 24:51:51:51m, total 2hrs 57mins @ -27C
Telescope: 10" Serrurier Truss Newtonian f/5
Camera: QSI 683wsg with Lodestar guider
Filters: Astrodon LRGB E-Series Gen 2
Taken from my observatory in Auckland, New Zealand