An image of NGC 3372 taken by the ESO VLT telescope
|Observation data: J2000.0 epoch|
|Right ascension||10h 45m 08.5s|
|Declination||-59° 52′ 04″|
|Distance||~6500-10000 ly |
|Apparent magnitude (V)||+1.0|
|Absolute magnitude (V)||~10.8|
|Notable features||Includes dark nebula
|Other designations||NGC 3372, ESO 128-EN013, GC 2197|
The Carina Nebula (also known as the Great Nebula in Carina, the Eta Carina Nebula, or NGC 3372, as well as "Grand Nebula") is a large bright nebula that surrounds several open clusters of stars. Eta Carinae and HD 93129A, two of the most massive and luminous stars in our Milky Way galaxy, are among them. The nebula lies at an estimated distance between 6,500 and 10,000 light years from Earth. It appears in the constellation of Carina, and is located in the Carina–Sagittarius Arm. The nebula contains multiple O-type stars.
The nebula is one of the largest diffuse nebulae in our skies. Although it is some four times as large and even brighter than the famous Orion Nebula, the Carina Nebula is much less well known, due to its location far in the Southern Hemisphere. It was discovered by Nicolas Louis de Lacaille in 1751–52 from the Cape of Good Hope.
Objects within the Carina Nebula 
Eta Carinae 
This object is currently the most massive star that can be studied in great detail, because of its location and size. Several other known stars may be more luminous and more massive, but data on them is far less robust. (Caveat: Since examples such as the Pistol Star have been demoted by improved data, one should be skeptical of most available lists of "most massive stars." In 2006, Eta Carinae still had the highest confirmed luminosity, based on data across a broad range of wavelengths.) Stars with more than 80 times the mass of the Sun produce more than a million times as much light as the Sun. They are quite rare—only a few dozen in a galaxy as big as ours—and they flirt with disaster near the Eddington limit, i.e., the outward pressure of their radiation is almost strong enough to counteract gravity. Stars that are more than 120 solar masses exceed the theoretical Eddington limit, and their gravity is barely strong enough to hold in its radiation and gas, resulting in a possible supernova or hypernova in the near future.
Eta Carinae's effects on the nebula can be seen directly. The dark globules in the above image and some other less visible objects have tails pointing directly away from the massive star. The entire nebula would have looked very different before the Great Eruption in the 1840s surrounded Eta Carinae with dust, drastically reducing the amount of ultraviolet light it put into the nebula.
Homunculus Nebula 
Within the large bright nebula is a much smaller feature, immediately surrounding Eta Carinae itself. This small nebula is known as the Homunculus Nebula (from the Latin meaning Little Man), and is believed to have been ejected in an enormous outburst in 1841 which briefly made Eta Carinae the second-brightest star in the sky.
Keyhole Nebula 
A portion of the Carina Nebula is known as the Keyhole Nebula, a name given to it by John Herschel in the 19th century. The Keyhole Nebula is actually a much smaller and darker cloud of cold molecules and dust, containing bright filaments of hot, fluorescing gas, silhouetted against the much brighter background nebula. The diameter of the Keyhole structure is approximately 7 light years. NGC 3324 is a designation for the Keyhole Nebula.
Mystic Mountain 
The "Mystic Mountain" is an image of a dust–gas pillar in the Carina Nebula taken by Hubble Space Telescope on its 20th anniversary. The area was observed by Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 on February 1–2, 2010. The pillar measures three light years in height; nascent stars inside the pillar fire off gas jets, that stream from towering peaks.
The Carina Nebula. Credit ESO.
The Carina Nebula around the Wolf–Rayet star WR 22. Credit ESO.
Colour-composite image of the Carina Nebula, revealing exquisite details in the stars and dust of the region. Credit ESO.
This image of the open cluster known as Trumpler 14 was obtained with the Multi-conjugate Adaptive optics Demonstrator (MAD) mounted on ESO’s Very Large Telescope. This youngest cluster, about 500,000 years old, is at the outskirts of the central region of the Nebula, located some 8,000 light-years away towards the constellation of Carina (the Keel).
Hubble's photo of turbulent neighborhood near eruptive star.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Eta Carinae Nebula|
- European Southern Observatory: Carina Nebula shown in colourful detail - February 12, 2009
- NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day: Open star cluster Trumpler 16 - December 1, 2008
- NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day: Eta Carinae and the Homunculus Nebula - June 17, 2008
- NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day: The Great Nebula in Carina - July 19, 1999
- SEDS: The Eta Carinae Nebula
- The ESA Hubble Space Telescope site: Results for the Carina Nebula
- Carina Nebula on WikiSky: DSS2, SDSS, GALEX, IRAS, Hydrogen α, X-Ray, Astrophoto, Sky Map, Articles and images
- Interactive: The Carina Nebula in all its Glory...