The Carina Nebula

Carina Nebula (released 2007)                                        NASA / STScI Hubble
 Discovered by British Royal Astronomer Sir William Herschel in the mid-nineteenth century, the Keyhole Nebula got its name because of its unusual shape.  At a distance of 8,000 light years from Earth, the Carina Nebula, of which the Keyhole Nebula is the center core, covers an immense area of space over 200 light years across.  It is filled with stars ten times hotter and a hundred times more massive than our Sun, glowing filaments of gas and dark, cold molecular clouds and dust.  The most luminous star in our galaxy, Eta Carina, is found there.  In 1843, it exploded and became the second brightest star in our sky, to later dim over time.  It is the light from this star that illuminates the gases around it that create the images I see - and it is the only known source of natural laser radiation in our galaxy, an astronomical mystery.

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