Ice, Ice, Baby: Carina Nebula is Cosmic Ice Sculpture
Every February, in the dead of winter, Quebec City celebrates carnivale, marked by joyous revelry, swimming in the frigid St. Lawrence river, and admiring the ice sculptures by local artists that invariably line the streets. It turns out that our universe fancies herself a bit of an artist, too, as evidenced by today's dose of Space Porn: the spectacular pillars of cold hydrogen and dust found in the Carina Nebula.
Thanks to a combination of radiation from massive stars and stellar winds, all that hydrogen and dust is sculpted into those giant clouds roughly one light-year tall. And deep within those cold dusty clouds, new stars may be coming into existence.
The image above is another home run for NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, specifically its Advanced Camera for Surveys. It's a composite of a 2005 pass recorded in hydrogen light (the light emitted by hydrogen atoms) and a more recent 2010 pass recorded in light emitted by oxygen atoms.