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This is just a small portion of one of the largest seen star-birth regions in the galaxy, the Carina Nebula. Towers of cool hydrogen laced with dust rise from the wall of the nebula. The scene is reminiscent of Hubble’s classic “Pillars of Creation” photo from 1995, but is even more striking in appearance. The image captures the top of a three-light-year-tall pillar of gas and dust that is being eaten away by the brilliant light from nearby bright stars. The pillar is also being pushed apart from within, as infant stars buried inside it fire off jets of gas that can be seen streaming from towering peaks like arrows sailing through the air.

These two images of a three-light-year-high pillar of star birth demonstrate how observations taken in visible and infrared light by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope reveal dramatically different and complementary views of an object.

Credit: NASA, ESA, and M. Livio and the Hubble 20th Anniversary Team (STScI)

The super massive star Eta Carinae is embedded in a huge gas and dust cloud. It is situated approx. 7,500 light-years away. Eta Carinae suffered a giant outburst in the year 1841, when it became one of the brightest stars in the southern sky. Though the star released as much visible light as a supernova explosion, it survived the outburst. Such large stars are very unstable. The expelled gas that creates the spectacular nebula (NGC 3372) emitting light in different colors according the ionized elements, that we see today. The gas shell is moving outward at about 1.5 million miles per hour. The whole nebula spans 300 light years. This image has been taken with RGB filters (top) and with narrowband filters as mapped image (middle). The H-alpha version you find below. North is to the right.