Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2007 April 30
See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download
 the highest resolution version available.

Dust Pillar of the Carina Nebula
Credit: NASA, ESA, N. Smith (U. California, Berkeley) et al., and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

Explanation: Inside the head of this interstellar monster is a star that is slowly destroying it. The monster, actually an inanimate pillar of gas and dust, measures over a light year in length. The star, not itself visible through the opaque dust, is bursting out partly by ejecting energetic beams of particles. Similar epic battles are being waged all over the star-forming Carina Nebula. The stars will win in the end, destroying their pillars of creation over the next 100,000 years, and resulting in a new open cluster of stars. The pink dots are newly formed stars that have already been freed from their birth monster. The above image is only a small part of a highly detailed panoramic mosaic of the Carina Nebula taken by the Hubble Space Telescope and released last week. The technical name for the stellar jets are Herbig-Haro objects. How a star creates Herbig-Haro jets is an ongoing topic of research, but it likely involves an accretion disk swirling around a central star. A second impressive Herbig-Haro jet is visible across the bottom of a larger image.

Tomorrow's picture: venusian vortex

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