Location of Eta Carinae in the Carina Nebula (NGC 3372)
Except lines and text drawn by KD, this image was obtained at Cerro Tololo by
Nathan Smith (credit: N. Smith / Univ. of Minnesota / NOAO / AURA / NSF)
and can be found at the NOAO site.
NGC 3372 is an impressive star formation region, brighter in the sky than the Orion Nebula even
though it's 5 times farther away. (According to a
Hawaiian amateur astronomers' web site, the
Great Carina Nebula is so bright that "it casts a reflection on the ocean when viewed from the
summit of Haleakala on Maui.")
The closeup on the right has an angular width of 16.3 arcmin, corresponding to 35 lightyears or
11 parsecs at a distance of 2.3 kpc or 7400 lightyears. Aside from Eta Car, this region includes
about ten more of the most massive stars known, each above 50 Msun -- but since most of their
light is ultraviolet, they don't look spectacular in the picture. A major unsolved puzzle of star
formation: Why do freakishly massive stars occur in bunches?
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