A small portion of the rough-and-tumble neighborhood of swirling
dust and gas near one of the most massive and eruptive stars in
our galaxy is seen in this NASA Hubble Space Telescope image. This
close-up view shows only a three light-year-wide portion of the
entire Carina Nebula, which has a diameter of over 200 light-years.
Located 8,000 light-years from Earth, the nebula can be seen in the
southern sky with the naked eye.

Dramatic dark dust knots and complex structures are sculpted by
the high-velocity stellar winds and high-energy radiation from the
ultra-luminous variable star called Eta Carinae, or Eta Car (located
outside the picture). This image shows a region in the Carina Nebula
between two large clusters of some of the most massive and hottest
known stars.

The filamentary structure is caused by turbulence in the circumstellar
gas, which in turn was caused by several stars shedding their outer
layers. Cold gas mixes with hot gas, leaving a veil of denser, opaque
material in the foreground. The chemical elements in the surroundings
create a potential reservoir for new star formation. Areas in the
brightest parts of the image at the top show elephant-trunk shaped
dust clouds that may form into embryonic solar systems.

This Hubble image was taken in July 2002 as part of a parallel
observing program. The Hubble telescope has several instruments
that can be simultaneously used to look at slightly different
portions of the sky. In this case, the Space Telescope Imaging
Spectrograph was used to study Eta Carinae itself, while the Wide
Field Planetary Camera 2 was used to take this image of the
nebulosity near Eta Car. This parallel observing mode increases
Hubble’s efficiency and allows astronomers to probe parts of the
sky that they would not otherwise be able to investigate.

Produced by the Hubble Heritage team, this color image is a
composite of ultraviolet, visible, and infrared filters that have
been assigned the colors blue, green, and red, respectively.

Image Credit: NASA and The Hubble Heritage Team (AURA/STScI)
Acknowledgment: S. Casertano (STScI)

NOTE TO EDITORS: For additional information, please contact
Keith Noll, Hubble Heritage Team, Space Telescope Science
Institute, 3700 San Martin Drive, Baltimore, MD 21218, (phone)
410-338-1828, (fax) 410-338-4579, (e-mail) noll@stsci.edu or

Carol Christian, Hubble Heritage Team, Space Telescope Science
Institute, 3700 San Martin Drive, Baltimore, MD 21218, (phone)
410-338-4764, (fax) 410-338-4579, (e-mail) carolc@stsci.edu

Electronic images and additional information are available at

The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) is operated by the
Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc. (AURA),
for NASA, under contract with the Goddard Space Flight Center,
Greenbelt, MD. The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of
international cooperation between NASA and the European Space
Agency (ESA).