Washington: Atacama Pathfinder Experiment (APEX) telescope has captured a spectacular view of star formation in the Carina Nebula.
A team of astronomers led by Thomas Preibisch (Universitats-Sternwarte Munchen, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitat, Germany), imaged the region in sub-millimetre light using the LABOCA camera on the APEX telescope on the plateau of Chajnantor in the Chilean Andes.
A nebula is an interstellar cloud of dust, hydrogen gas, helium gas and other ionised gases.
The Carina nebula contains stars with a total mass equivalent to over 25 000 Suns, while the mass of the gas and dust clouds is that of about 140 000 Suns.
However, only a fraction of the gas in the Carina Nebula is in sufficiently dense clouds to collapse and form new stars in the immediate future (in astronomical terms, meaning within the next million years).
In the longer term, the dramatic effects of the massive stars already in the region on their surrounding clouds may accelerate the star formation rate.
The Carina Nebula is some 7500 light-years distant in the constellation of the same name (Carina, or The Keel).
It is among the brightest nebulae in the sky because of its large population of high-mass stars. At about 150 light-years across, it is several times larger than the well-known Orion Nebula.
Even though it is several times further away than the Orion Nebula, its apparent size on the sky is therefore about the same, making it also one of the largest nebulae in the sky.