VISTA captures huge Carina Nebula in all its infrared glory

The Carina Nebula some 7,500 light years away is one of the most spectacular in the Milky Way galaxy, with massive stars in the deep interior lighting up vast clouds of gas and dust and generating stellar winds that disperse these stellar nurseries. More than 300 light years across, the Carina Nebula is one of the largest star forming regions in the galaxy, home of the famed Eta Carinae binary system in which one massive star is nearing the end of its life. The European Southern Observatory’s Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy – VISTA – captured this remarkably detailed view showing “agglomerations of young stars hidden within the dusty material snaking through the Carina Nebula.” In 2014, VISTA pinpointed nearly five million infrared sources in the nebula, “revealing the vast extent of this stellar breeding ground.”

A remarkably detailed infrared view of the Carina Nebula captured by ESO’s Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy, or VISTA. Image: ESO/J. Emerson/M. Irwin/J. Lewis