Cosmic ice sculptures: Dust pillars in the Carina Nebula

Sep 16, 2010
Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Project (STScI/AURA)

Enjoying a frozen treat on a hot summer day can leave a sticky mess as it melts in the Sun and deforms. In the cold vacuum of space, there is no edible ice cream, but there is radiation from massive stars that is carving away at cold molecular clouds, creating bizarre, fantasy-like structures.

These one-light-year-tall pillars of cold hydrogen and dust, imaged by the , are located in the Carina Nebula. Violent stellar winds and powerful radiation from are sculpting the surrounding nebula. Inside the dense structures, new stars may be born.

This image of dust pillars in the Carina Nebula is a composite of 2005 observations taken of the region in hydrogen light (light emitted by ) along with 2010 observations taken in oxygen light (light emitted by oxygen atoms), both times with Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys. The immense Carina Nebula is an estimated 7,500 light-years away in the southern constellation Carina.

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This scientific visualization creates a three-dimensional virtual tour of several dark pillars of cool gas in the Carina Nebula. The stars and nebula layers from Hubble's two-dimensional image have been separated using both scientific knowledge and artistic license to create the depth in the movie. Of note, the relative distances between stars and the nebula have been greatly compressed. The result is an intriguing journey through a virtual cosmic landscape. Credit: NASA, ESA, and G. Bacon, L. Frattare, Z. Levay, and F. Summers (STScI)


Explore further: POLARBEAR detects curls in the universe's oldest light

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