NASA, ESA, M. Livio and the Hubble 20th Anniversary Team (STSci).
April 22, 2010 — The Hubble team describes this awe-inspiring image as a "fantasy mountaintop enshrouded by wispy clouds looks like a bizarre landscape from Tolkien's 'The Lord of the Rings' or a Dr. Seuss book, depending on your imagination." And they're not wrong! Resembling a mystical pillar that even James Cameron would have difficulties recreating in CGI, this brand new Hubble Space Telescope scene overloads the senses with detail.
As the famous space telescope gears up to celebrate its 20th anniversary this weekend, Hubble has taken this highly detailed photograph deep within the Carina Nebula, located 7,500 light-years from Earth in the constellation Carina.
What we're looking at is a turbulent stellar nursery at the very top of a 3 light-year long pillar of thick gas and dust. This is where baby stars are born, feeding off material inside the craggy tower. From the outside, material is being eroded by savage winds of energetic particles and intense radiation from young stars in open space.
The pressure on the dusty pillar caused by the emissions from these stars is triggering stellar processes inside, seeding more newborn stars that will eventually eat their way to freedom, "hatching" from their nursery like their cousins before them.
Streamers of hot ionized gas can be clearly seen blasting from the edges of the pillar, products of the violent birthing of stars. Two of the most prominent streamers — one at the very top of the longest finger of dust (originating from the bulbous pinnacle) and one in the center of the image (known as HH 901 and HH 902, respectively) — are caused by swirling disks around newborn stars, dragging material onto the stars' surfaces and blasting it out as energetic jets.
Although it's about to celebrate its 20th birthday, the aging observatory remains the best there is to show us how stars are made deep inside violent star-making factories. But the best thing is that Hubble has a lot more cosmos to show us yet.