New image shows nearby stellar nursery

Feb. 8, 2012 at 6:20 PM
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MUNICH, Germany, Feb. 8 (UPI) -- Secrets of a stellar nursery in the Carina Nebula in our Milky Way have been revealed in a new telescope infrared image, European astronomers say.

The cloud of glowing gas and dust is one of the closest incubators of very massive stars to the Earth and includes several of the brightest and heaviest stars known, they said, but many of its secrets are hidden behind thick clouds of dust.

A team of astronomers, led by Thomas Preibisch of the University Observatory in Munich, Germany, has used the power of the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope along with an infrared-sensitive camera to see beyond the dust veil, an ESO release issued Wednesday said.

The resulting image, combined from hundreds of individual images, is the most detailed infrared mosaic of the nebula ever taken, the release said.

Hundreds of thousands of faint stars that were previously invisible in optical images can be seen, astronomers said.

One of the brightest stars in the nebula is Eta Carinae, which is likely to explode as a supernova in the near future in astronomical terms, the release said.

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