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Image of the week: The cloud almost a million times the size of our Sun

19 Nov 2012


The Carina Nebula is a star forming nursery of giant bubbles, towering pillars and cascading clouds of dust and gas, some 7500 light-years from Earth.


 Carina Nebula. Credit: ESA/Herschel/SPIRE/PACS/Thomas Preisbisch (JPG, 3.5 Mb) 
Carina Nebula.
Credit: ESA/Herschel/SPIRE/PACS/Thomas Preisbisch

Pictured by the Herschel satellite, this nebula hosts some of the most massive and luminous stars in our galaxy, the mass of the entire complex may be as high as 900,000 Suns. Due to its size, the nebula is several million times brighter than the Sun (even your Ray Bans couldn’t stop those rays).

Herschel is the largest ever infrared space observatory and collects radiation from some of the coldest and most distant objects in the Universe. The development of the Spectral and Photometric Imaging Receiver (SPIRE) instrument was led by the UK with the assembly and testing taking place at the STFC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL) in Oxfordshire.

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I work in space

Ian Whittaker I work as a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Otago.