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April 29, 2005

Carina Nebula

A giant star-forming region in the southern sky known as the Carina Nebula (NGC 3372) combines the light from three different filters, tracing emission from oxygen (blue), hydrogen (green) and sulphur (red). The color is also representative of the temperature in the ionized gas: Blue is relatively hot and red is cooler.

The Carina Nebula is a good example of how very massive stars rip apart the molecular clouds that give birth to them. The bright star near the center of the image is Eta Carinae, one of the most massive and luminous stars known. This picture is a composite of several exposures made with the Curtis-Schmidt Telescope at the Cerro Tololo Interamerican Observatory (CTIO) in Chile.

More about this Image
CTIO provides qualified scientists with telescopes and related facilities for astronomical research in the Southern Hemisphere. CTIO has offices, labs and living quarters in the coastal city of La Serena, 482-kilometers north of Santiago. The observing facilities are on Cerro Tololo, a 2,194-meter mountain on the western slopes of the Andes Mountains, 64-kilometers inland from La Serena.

CTIO operates the 4-meter Blanco Telescope, which is a near twin to the 4-meter Mayall Telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory in Arizona, and a general purpose 1.5-meter reflector. These telescopes are equipped with instruments similar to those at Kitt Peak. Several other telescopes operated by U.S. universities are also located on Cerro Tololo. A new technology 4-meter telescope (Southern Observatory for Astrophysical Research, or SOAR) is under construction on nearby Cerro Pachon.

CTIO is one of several observatories that make up the National Optical Astronomy Observatories (NOAO), a national center for research in ground-based, optical and infrared astronomy supported by the National Science Foundation.

Credit: Nathan Smith, University of Minnesota/NOAO/AURA/NSF

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