Massive stars live fast and die young. But they are also beautiful. This amazingly spectacular new image from ESO shows the brilliant and unusual star Wolf-Rayet 22 nestled within billowing, colorful folds of the Carina Nebula. WR 22 is one of many exceptionally hot and brilliant stars contained by the beautiful Carina Nebula (also known as NGC 3372), a huge region of star formation in the southern Milky Way. The image was captured by ESO’s Wide Field Imager at the La Silla Observatory in Chile.
Wolf–Rayet stars are named after the two French astronomers who first identified them in the mid-nineteenth century, and WR 22 is one of the most massive ones we know of. It is a member of a double star system and has been measured to have a mass at least 70 times that of the Sun. Although the star lies over 5000 light-years from the Earth, it is so bright that it can just be faintly seen with the unaided eye under good conditions.
The colorful backdrop of the Carina Nebula is created by the interactions between the intense ultraviolet radiation coming from WR 22 and other hot massive stars within the nebula, and the vast gas clouds, mostly hydrogen, from which they formed. The central part of this enormous complex of gas and dust lies off the left side of this picture as can be seen in image another image on the ESO website. This area includes the famous star Eta Carinae, one of the most massive stars and unstable stars in the universe.
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For more info, and larger images for downloads (need a new desktop background?) see this ESO webpage.
3 Replies to “Stunning New Image of Wolf-Rayet Star and the Carina Nebula”
While this image is indeed awesome, I prefer the panoramic view mentioned in the article: http://www.eso.org/public/images/eso1031b/
In the panoramic view the size and relation of the incredible Eta Carina Nebula can be seen, and it is beyond description (try viewing the 199Mb TIFF file). The Keyhole Nebula and Eta Carina itself can be seen in all its glory amid other star clusters and nebulae in the region. Too bad we never get a good view of this region from Florida.
Beautiful image – as is the one you put up Jon.
“Too bad we never get a good view of this region from Florida.”
Get a pretty damn nice view from Sydney. Well, OK, not Sydney itself, but head out of Sydney for an hour or two… It’d be fair to say that it is the most impressive region of nebulosity in the entire sky with the unaided eye or binos.
A beautiful image indeed! I went to the link Jon Hanford posted and saw the panorama and noticed that the image Nancy posted actually extends further ‘south’ than the ‘click to enlarge’ version in Jon’s link…
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