Picture of the month

This image from the Chandra X-Ray Observatory shows the Carina Nebula in X-rays (low-energy shown in red and the highest energy X-rays in blue). The nebula lies at an estimated distance of 6500–10,000 light years, measures approximately 200 light-years across, and is visible with binoculars toward the southern constellation of Carina. The Carina Nebula is a star-forming region in the Sagittarius-Carina arm of the Milky Way and Chandra has detected more than 14,000 stars in this region. As a star-forming region, the nebula hosts a large number of young and very bright star systems including WR25, which contains the brightest star in the Milky Way. The Trumpler 15 area, located in the northern part of the image, contains a deficit of bright X-ray sources indicating that several stars have recently died here. One object in this nebula that could end its life at any moment is Eta Carinae, a stellar system containing at least two stars with a combined luminosity greater than five million times that of the Sun. Eta Carinae erupted around 150 years ago when it became the second brightest star in the sky, and although it has since dimmed it is expected to become a supernova in the near future.

About the author

Compiled by Merlin Kole, Department of Particle Physics, University of Geneva.