VLT takes most detailed infrared image of the Carina Nebula

Feb 08, 2012
This broad panorama of the Carina Nebula, a region of massive star formation in the southern skies, was taken in infrared light using the HAWK-I camera on ESO's Very Large Telescope. Many previously hidden features, scattered across a spectacular celestial landscape of gas, dust and young stars, have emerged. Credit: ESO/T. Preibisch

(PhysOrg.com) -- ESO's Very Large Telescope has delivered the most detailed infrared image of the Carina Nebula stellar nursery taken so far. Many previously hidden features, scattered across a spectacular celestial landscape of gas, dust and young stars, have emerged. This is one of the most dramatic images ever created by the VLT.

Deep in the heart of the southern Milky Way lies a called the Carina Nebula. It is about 7500 light-years from Earth in the constellation of Carina (The Keel). This cloud of glowing gas and dust is one of the closest incubators of very to the Earth and includes several of the brightest and heaviest stars known. One of them, the mysterious and highly unstable star Eta Carinae, was the second brightest star in the entire for several years in the 1840s and is likely to explode as a supernova in the near future, by astronomical standards. The is a perfect laboratory for astronomers studying the violent births and early lives of stars.

Although this nebula is spectacular in normal visible-light pictures, many of its secrets are hidden behind thick . To penetrate this veil a European team of astronomers, led by Thomas Preibisch (University Observatory, Munich, Germany) has used the power of ESO's Very Large Telescope along with an infrared-sensitive camera called HAWK-I.

Hundreds of individual images have been combined to create this picture, which is the most detailed infrared mosaic of the nebula ever taken and one of the most dramatic images ever created by the VLT. It shows not just the brilliant massive stars, but hundreds of thousands of much fainter stars that were previously invisible.

The dazzling star Eta Carinae itself appears at the lower left of the new picture. It is surrounded by clouds of gas that are glowing under the onslaught of fierce . Across the image there are also many compact blobs of dark material that remain opaque even in the infrared. These are the dusty cocoons in which new stars are forming.

Over the last few million years this region of the sky has formed large numbers of stars both individually and in clusters. The bright star cluster close to the centre of the picture is called Trumpler 14. Although this object is seen well in visible light, many more fainter stars can be seen in this infrared view. And towards the left side of the image a small concentration of stars that appear yellow can be seen. This grouping was seen for the first time in this new data from the VLT: these stars cannot be seen in visible light at all. This is just one of many new objects revealed for the first time in this spectacular panorama.

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More information: Research paper describing the infrared observations of the Carina Nebula

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flashgordon
5 / 5 (2) Feb 08, 2012
did it use the full four telescope interferometer? Or, was this using just one of the four eight meter telescopes?(sorry, i can't access the paper; i'm not in charge of the computer I use; generaly, I can't access anything that needs to be downloaded)
panorama
5 / 5 (1) Feb 08, 2012
Flash,

from the paper,
The NIR imager HAWK-I (see Kissler-Patig et al. 2008) at the
ESO 8 mVery Large Telescope is equippedwith amosaic of four
Hawaii 2RG 2048 × 2048 pixel detectors with a scale of 0.106
per pixel. The camera has a field of view on the sky of 7.5 ×7.5
with a small cross-shaped gap of 15 between the four detectors.
The observations of the CNC were performed from 24 to
31 January 2008 in service mode as part of the scientific verification
program for HAWK-I.


Is that what you wondering? When it comes to the technical side of astronomy I'll admit I'm very ignorant.
yyz
5 / 5 (2) Feb 08, 2012
"did it use the full four telescope interferometer? Or, was this using just one of the four eight meter telescopes?"

This mosaic was made using one of the 8m telescopes that comprise the VLT. The field of view of the 4-telescope VLT interferometer is only a few seconds of arc across, and that tiny FOV is not really suited for the much wider FOV images (7.5x7.5 arcmin) used to make the mosaic above.

The entire mosaic covers about 1280 square-arcminutes.