Human Journey

Space Candy: My Fair Carina


—Image courtesy ESO

Fluffy, colorful, sparkling… need I say more?

O, all right. The above beauty shot is the newest image of the Carina nebula, a tumultuous mix of massive stars, dust, and strong cosmic winds that sits about 7,500 light-years away.

Carina is full of massive young stars, over a dozen of which are 50 to 100 times the mass of our sun, according to the ESO press release.

Perhaps one of the nebula’s most famous daughters is Eta Carina, a star more than a hundred times the sun’s mass and about four million times brighter.

In the 1880s the star produced a faux-supernova—an explosion that didn’t kill the star but did cast off material to create two lobes of hot gas named the Homunculus Nebula.

The bulbous results of this death spasm resemble what happened to another giant star, SN 2006gy, before it blew itself to bits.

That event was 240 million light-years away, but in 2007 it was dubbed the brightest supernova yet seen.

If Eta Carina—a relative next-door neighbor—goes out in the same way, astronomers think we’d not only be able to see light from the explosion, it would be visible during the day and would brighten the night sky enough to read a book.

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