Thursday, April 26, 2007
Happy Birthday Hubble (17!)
In honor of another birthday, NASA has realeased one of the most dramtic pictures ever taken by the space telescope. It is a 50-light-year-wide view of the central region of the Carina Nebula where a maelstrom of star birth - and death - is taking place. The fantasy-like landscape of the nebula is sculpted by the action of outflowing winds and scorching ultraviolet radiation from the monster stars that inhabit this inferno. In the process, these stars are shredding the surrounding material that is the last vestige of the giant cloud from which the stars were born. The immense nebula contains at least a dozen brilliant stars that are estimated to be 50 to 100 times the mass of our sun. The most unique and opulent inhabitant is the star Eta Carinae, which is in the final stages of its brief and eruptive lifespan, as evidenced by two billowing lobes of gas and dust that presage its upcoming explosion as a titanic supernova.