The Carina Nebula is a vast, star-forming region in our Milky Way Galaxy. Within the nebula, new stars form out of dense, dark clouds of gas and dust. The bright, high-energy radiation from massive young stars erodes away the dark gas. Tall pillars, such as the ones featured in this sequence, form when dense pockets of gas resist that erosion. The illuminating stars for these pillars are located well off the top of the image. At the peaks of two pillars, jets of emission serve as the birth announcements of new stars buried within the clouds. The image is nicknamed "Mystic Mountain" and was released in celebration of the 20th anniversary of the launch of the Hubble Space Telescope.
Like most astronomical objects, the Carina Nebula is too far away for the Hubble Space Telescope to see in a three-dimensional perspective. This scientific visualization separates the stars and layers of the nebula to create depth from the 2D image. A virtual camera flies into the resulting 3D model, which is informed by astronomical knowledge but is not scientifically accurate. Distances, in particular, have been greatly compressed.
Credits: G. Bacon, L. Frattare, Z. Levay, and F. Summers (STScI)
Production date: April 22, 2010