Astronomy Picture of the Week – Carina Nebula

This is a picture of the Carina Nebula, also known as NGC 3372. It is a huge nebula spanning over 300 light years. The dark shapes you can see in this image are actually clouds of molecular gas and dust so thick they appear opaque. In comparison, however, these clouds are much less dense than the Earth’s atmosphere. The nebula lies about 7,500 light-years away in the constellation of Carina.

Carina Nebula

Below is a zoom on a region of the nebula that features some dark shapes:

Carina Nebula zoom

See also: “Mystic Mountain” in the Carina Nebula – Astronomy Picture of the Week

Images credit: NASA, ESA, N. Smith (U. California, Berkeley) et al., and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA).