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ScienceShot: Not-So-Tiny Bubbles in the Carina Nebula

5 June 2012 3:44 pm
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ESA/PACS/SPIRE/T. Preibisch

To the naked eye, the Carina Nebula, which lies some 7500 light-years from Earth, is just a diffuse blob. But far-infrared wavelengths reveal a more detailed picture. New observations, gathered by sensors aboard the European Space Agency's (ESA's) Herschel Space Observatory, show giant bubbles of gas sculpted by intense stellar winds amid a chaotic web of dust clouds (image). The total amount of gas and dust in this false-color compilation of three far-infrared wavelengths equals about 650,000 times the mass of our sun, according to ESA scientists. The clouds of gas and dust rendered visible in this image are extremely cold, with temperatures ranging from 10 to 30 kelvin (about -263° to -243°C). Including warmer gas and dust not apparent at these wavelengths, the total mass of this stellar nursery may be as high as 900,000 suns. The nebula's central region (bottom) is home to some of the most massive and luminous stars in our galaxy, including η Carinae, a two-star system that by itself weighs more than 100 times our sun.

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