|Observation data: J2000.0 epoch|
|Right ascension||10h 45m 08.5s|
|Declination||−59° 52′ 04″|
|Distance||~6500-10000 ly  ly|
|Apparent magnitude (V)||+1.0|
|Radius||~100 pc ly|
|Absolute magnitude (V)||~10.8|
|Notable features||Includes dark nebula
|Designations||NGC 3372, ESO 128-EN013, GC 2197, Caldwell 92|
The Carina Nebula (also known as the Great Nebula in Carina, the Eta Carinae Nebula, NGC 3372, as well as the Grand Nebula) is a large bright nebula that has within its boundaries several related open clusters of stars, all part of the large OB association Carina OB1. The two star clusters Trumpler 14 and Trumpler 16 are the youngest clusters in the association, but Trumpler 15, Collinder (Cr) 228, Cr 232, NGC 3324, and NGC 3293 are all considered members. Trumpler 14 is one of the youngest known star clusters, at half a million years old. Trumpler 16 is the home of WR 25, currently the most luminous star known in our Milky Way galaxy, together with the less luminous but more massive and famous Eta Carinae star system, and HD 93129A. NGC 3293 is the oldest furthest from Trumpler 14, indicating sequential and ongoing star formation. 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 in the southern sky. It was discovered by Nicolas Louis de Lacaille in 1751–52 from the Cape of Good Hope.
Objects within the Carina Nebula
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.
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.
A portion of the Carina Nebula is known as the Keyhole, a name introduced by John Herschel in the 19th century. The Keyhole is often called the Keyhole Nebula (though that name is often applied to the Carina Nebula as a whole, signifying "the nebula containing the Keyhole"). The Keyhole is a much smaller and darker cloud of cold molecules and dust within the Carina Nebula, 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.
The Keyhole does not have its own NGC designation. It is often erroneously called NGC 3324, but that catalogue designation refers to a reflection and emission nebula just northwest of the Carina Nebula (or to its embedded star cluster).
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.
Overview of the Carina Nebula. The Keyhole is superimposed on the bright area above center, and Eta Carinae is the bright star just to its left. Credit ESO.
The Eta Carinae Nebula. Credit ESO.
The Eta Carinae Nebula around the Wolf–Rayet star WR 22. Credit ESO.
Colour-composite image of the Eta Carinae Nebula, revealing exquisite details in the stars and dust of the region. Credit ESO.
Hubble's photo of turbulent neighborhood near eruptive star.
- "Object Data – NGC 3372". The NGC/IC Project. Archived from the original on 2008-05-12. Retrieved 2008-04-25.
- "NGC 3372 - The Eta Carinae Nebula". Atlas of the Universe. Retrieved 2013-10-01.
- "NGC 3372". SIMBAD. Centre de données astronomiques de Strasbourg. Retrieved 2013-09-03.
- O'Meara, S. J. (2002). The Caldwell Objects. Cambridge University Press. pp. 361–369. ISBN 0-521-82796-5.
- "One Picture, Many Stories". ESO Picture of the Week. Retrieved 13 February 2013.
- See, e.g., Burnham's Celestial Handbook, Dover, 1978, p. 467.
- For example, see APOD - NGC 3324.
- Kepple et al. (2008). The Night Sky Observer's Guide. Vol. 3. Willman Bell, Inc. p. 52. ISBN 9780943396897.
- "Results for NGC 3324". NGC/IC Project. Retrieved 17 May 2014.
- "NGC 3324". SIMBAD. Retrieved 17 May 2014.
|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...
- Carina Nebula on Constellation Guide