Carina Nebula: A fist view from the James Webb telescope

The Carina Nebula is a turbulent cloud of gas, dust about 7,600 light-years from here, a birthplace and graveyard for some of the Milky Way’s hottest and most massive stars.

The nebula is home to some of the galaxy’s brightest and potentially most explosive stars. Notable among them is Eta Carinae, a binary star system whose tumultuous main member is as massive as 200 suns and five million times as bright as the star that fills your daytime sky. Over the years, the primary star has erupted periodically as it has aged and trembled. At least 20 solar masses of gas and dust have been ejected into the nebula, obscuring Eta Carinae itself and the nebula’s other inhabitants.

Infrared radiation can penetrate dust, so astronomers are hoping to learn more about the stars forming in the churning nebula and about Eta Carinae itself, which appears to be one day or centuries on the way to exploding as a supernova.

“It took me a while to figure out what to call out in this image,” said Amber Straughn, assistant project scientist for the telescope.

dr Straughn added that she couldn’t help but ponder the sense of scale in Webb’s image of the nebula, which is filled with individual stars with planets of their own.

“We humans are really connected to the universe,” she said. “We are made of the same stuff in this landscape.”

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