Caldwell 92

Better known as the Carina Nebula, Caldwell 92 offers us a wealth of science and beautiful images.

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Distance

7,500 light-years

Apparent Magnitude

4.8

constellation

Carina

object type

Emission Nebula

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NASA, ESA, N. Smith (University of California, Berkeley), and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA); CTIO data: N. Smith (University of California, Berkeley) and NOAO/AURA/NSF

Astronomers targeted Caldwell 92 to create one of the largest panoramic images ever taken with Hubble’s cameras, generating a stunning 50-light-year-wide view of the tumultuous central region of this strange stellar nursery. Also known as the Carina Nebula and NGC 3372, Caldwell 92 is sculpted by the action of outflowing winds and scorching ultraviolet radiation from the monster stars that inhabit this inferno. These stars are shredding the surrounding material that is the last vestige of the giant cloud from which the stars were born.

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Within the tempestuous Carina Nebula lies “Mystic Mountain.” This three-light-year-tall cosmic pinnacle, imaged by Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 in 2010, is made up primarily of dust and gas, and exhibits signs of intense star-forming activity. The colors in this composite image correspond to the glow of oxygen (blue), hydrogen and nitrogen (green), and sulfur (red).
NASA, ESA, M. Livio, and the Hubble 20th Anniversary Team (STScI)

The Carina Nebula lies within our own galaxy, approximately 7,500 light-years away. Near the heart of the nebula lies Eta Carinae – a system of at least two stars, the largest of which (Eta Car A) is around 100 times as massive as the Sun and 5 million times as luminous. Stars of this size are extremely rare; our galaxy is home to hundreds of billions of stars but only tens of them are in the mass range of Eta Car A.

The image above is a mosaic assembled from 48 frames taken with Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys. The Hubble exposures were taken in the light of ionized hydrogen. Color information was added using data taken through three filters at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile. Red corresponds to sulfur, green to hydrogen, and blue to oxygen emission.

This view of the Carina Nebula provided astronomers the opportunity to explore the process of star birth at a new level of detail. The hurricane-strength blast of stellar winds and blistering ultraviolet radiation within the nebula is compressing the surrounding walls of cold hydrogen. This is triggering a second stage of star formation. Hubble has also enabled scientists to generate 3D models that reveal never-before-seen features of the interactions between the star system at its heart – Eta Carinae.

Dark, reddish-brown cloud fills the screen stretching from upper-left to filling the bottom of the image. Blue background is dotted with bright-white and yellow-orange stars.
This sparkling new image depicts a small section of the Carina Nebula, one of the NASA Hubble Space Telescope’s most-imaged objects. To take this image of the Carina Nebula, scientists relied on Hubble’s infrared light imaging capabilities, which detect longer wavelengths of light not scattered by the heavy dust and gas surrounding the stars. This image shows only a small section of the nebula, located near the center in an area with thinner gas. Due to the nebula’s enormous size – about 300 light-years – astronomers can only study it in sections, piecing together the data from separate images to get an understanding of the nebula’s large-scale structure and composition.
NASA, ESA, and A. Kraus (University of Texas at Austin); Processing: Gladys Kober (NASA/Catholic University of America)

The Carina Nebula was discovered by Nicolas-Louis de Lacaille in 1752 from the Cape of Good Hope. With a magnitude of about 4.8, it is visible in the Carina constellation even with the naked eye. With its large extent, the nebula is an excellent target for binoculars or a small telescope. It is best seen from the Southern Hemisphere in the early autumn, but stargazers in the Northern Hemisphere located near the equator can try looking for it low above the southern horizon in the early spring.

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Hubble observed this pillar of gas and dust in the Carina Nebula in both visible light (top) and infrared light (bottom) in 2009 using its newly installed Wide Field Camera 3. The infrared image reveals stars that are hidden in the visible-light image. A jet of material can be seen streaming to the left and right from a young star in the center of the pillar.
NASA, ESA, and the Hubble SM4 ERO Team
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Hubble revealed never-before-seen details in this part of the Carina Nebula, dubbed the “Keyhole Nebula,” when its Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2 imaged it in 1999.
NASA and the Hubble Heritage Team (AURA/STScI)
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This star chart for Caldwell 92 represents the view from mid-southern latitudes for the given month and time.
Image courtesy of Stellarium

Glossary

Ionization - The process by which particles become electrically charged; radiation from various astronomical sources, such as stars, can charge surrounding gases with electromagnetic radiation, causing these clouds of gas to glow.

Magnitude - The brightness of an astronomical object, represented by a number; bright objects have low numbers on the magnitude scale, while dim objects have high numbers.

Nebula - An interstellar cloud of dust and gas; either a location where new stars are being forged or a cloud of material ejected into space by a dying star.

Explore Hubble's Caldwell Catalog

The following pages contain some of Hubble’s best images of Caldwell objects.

Caldwell 1

Also known as NGC 188, this group of stars formed from a large cloud of gas making the stars roughly…

Caldwell 2

This shell of gas is expanding outward, away from the dying star within.

Caldwell 3

This barred spiral galaxy was first spotted by British astronomer William Herschel in April 1793 in the constellation Draco.