The Evolving Universe

Smithsonian Institution

Carina Nebula • NGC 3372

NGC3372 image

Credit: NASA/ESA/M.Livio/STScI

Observers: Mario Livio, Hubble 20th Anniversary Team

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At the tip of the large column of dust and gas, a young protostar - a star whose core is not yet stably fusing hydrogen atoms into helium - spits out enormous jets of superheated gas and dust. Protostars are very unstable as the pull of gravity and the push of heat from the core struggle for balance. The columns you see here have been carved out of the Carina nebula by the winds from young stars, in much the same way that Earthly winds sculpt rocks in the deserts of the American SouthWest.

  • Distance from Earth: 7500 light years
  • Size: 1.2-2.3 light years
  • Telescope: Hubble Space Telescope
  • Light: Visible