It is one of the greatest battles ever seen.
In the Carina Nebula, a dynamic and evolving cloud of scattered interstellar gas and dust about 7,500 light years away, in the constellation of Carina, there is a battle between stars and dust.
An impressive new image reveals the area with unprecedented details.
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This spectacular image of the Carina nebula reveals the dynamic cloud of interstellar matter and the finely distributed gas and dust like never before. The massive stars inside this cosmic bubble emit intense radiation that causes the surrounding gas to shine. On the contrary, other regions of the nebula contain dark pillars of dust that surround the newborn stars. Eta Carinae can be seen in this image as part of the bright patch of light just above the point of the V & # 39; formed by clouds of dust.
ETA CARINAES: THE STAR SYSTEM THAT RISES THE NIGHT SKY
Eta Carinae, located about 7,500 light-years away in the southern constellation Carina, is famous for a nineteenth-century burst that briefly made it the second brightest star in the sky.
This event also ejected a massive nebula in the form of an hourglass, but the cause of the eruption remains poorly understood.
The system contains a pair of massive stars whose eccentric orbits approach them unusually every 5.5 years.
The stars contain 90 and 30 times the mass of our Sun and pass 140 million miles (225 million kilometers) away at their closest approximation, roughly the average distance between Mars and the Sun.
Eta Carinae can be seen in the image above as part of the bright patch of light just above the point of the "V" shape made by the dust clouds.
"The massive stars inside this cosmic bubble emit intense radiation that causes the surrounding gas to glow, while other regions of the nebula contain dark pillars of dust that cover the newborn stars," say experts at the European Observatory. from the south.
"There is a battle between stars and dust in the Carina nebula, and the newly formed stars are winning: they produce high-energy radiation and stellar winds that evaporate and disperse in the dusty stellar nurseries where they formed."
With more than 300 light years, the Carina Nebula is one of the largest star-forming regions of the Milky Way and is easily visible to the naked eye under dark skies.
It is 60 degrees below the celestial equator, so it is visible only from the southern hemisphere.
Within this intriguing nebula, Eta Carinae occupies the place of honor as the most peculiar star system.
This stellar star – a curious form of stellar binary – is the most energetic stellar system in this region and was one of the brightest objects in the sky in the 1830s.
Since then it has vanished dramatically and is nearing the end of its life, but it remains one of the most massive and luminous star systems in the Milky Way.
Eta Carinae can be seen in this image as part of the bright patch of light just above the point of the V & # 39; formed by clouds of dust. Directly to the right of Eta Carinae is the relatively small Keyhole Nebula, a small, dense cloud of cold molecules and gas within the Carina Nebula, which hosts several massive stars and whose appearance has also changed dramatically in recent centuries.
The Carina nebula was discovered at the Cape of Good Hope by Nicolas Louis de Lacaille in the 1750s and since then many images of it have been taken.
But VISTA – the visible and infrared study telescope for astronomy – adds an unprecedented detailed view over a large area; its infrared vision is perfect to reveal the clusters of young stars hidden inside the dusty material that meanders through the Carina nebula.
In 2014, VISTA was used to identify close to five million individual sources of infrared light within this nebula, revealing the great extent of this stellar breeding ground.
VISTA is the largest infrared telescope in the world dedicated to studies and its large mirror, wide field of vision and exquisitely sensitive detectors allow astronomers to reveal a completely new vision of the southern sky.
Last year, a NASA study found that Eta Carinaes, which is 7,500 light-years away, accelerates particles to such high energies, some of them reaching Earth in the form of cosmic rays.
The star system consists of two huge stars that orbit each other and are so bright and massive that the radiation they produce tears off their surfaces and throws them into space at speeds comparable to the speed of light.
"We know that blast waves of exploded stars can accelerate cosmic ray particles at speeds comparable to those of light, an incredible increase in energy," said Kenji Hamaguchi, an astrophysicist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. and lead author of the study., which used data from NASA's NuSTAR space telescope.
& # 39; Similar processes must occur in other extreme environments.
"Our analysis indicates that Eta Carinae is one of them."
Astronomers know that cosmic rays with energies above 1,000 million electron volts (eV) reach us beyond our solar system.
But because these particles (electrons, protons, and atomic nuclei) have an electrical charge, they deviate from the course each time they find magnetic fields.
This stirs up their paths and masks their origins.
Eta Carinae shines in X-rays in this image from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory. The colors indicate different energies. Red ranges from 300 to 1,000 electron volts (eV), green ranges from 1,000 to 3,000 eV, and blue covers from 3,000 to 10,000 eV. In comparison, the energy of visible light is 2 to 3 eV. The NuSTAR detection shows that shock waves in the wind collision zone accelerate charged particles such as electrons and protons to near the speed of light. Some of these can reach Earth, where they will be detected as cosmic ray particles.
"Both stars of Eta Carinae drive strong outflows called stellar winds," said team member Michael Corcoran, also of Goddard.
"Where these winds collide, it changes during the orbital cycle, which produces a periodic signal in the low-energy X-rays we've been tracking for more than two decades."
NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope also observes a shift in gamma rays, which pack much more energy than X-rays, from a source in the direction of Eta Carinae.
But Fermi's vision is not as sharp as the X-ray telescopes, so the astronomers could not confirm the connection.
To close the gap between low-energy X-ray monitoring and Fermi's observations, Hamaguchi and his colleagues turned to NuSTAR.
Launched in 2012, NuSTAR can focus X-rays of much greater energy than any previous telescope.
Using freshly collected and archived data, the team examined the NuSTAR observations acquired between March 2014 and June 2016, along with lower-energy X-ray observations from the European Space Agency's XMM-Newton satellite during the same period.
The low-energy or soft X-rays of Eta Carinae come from gas at the interface of the collision stellar winds, where temperatures exceed 70 million degrees Fahrenheit (40 million degrees Celsius).
Previous studies have found an area between the two stars where high-speed stellar winds, which travel up to ten million kilometers (6.2 million miles) per hour, are colliding.
The low-energy or soft X-rays of Eta Carinae come from gas at the interface of collision stellar winds, where temperatures exceed 70 million degrees Fahrenheit (40 million degrees Celsius)
But NuSTAR detects a source that emits X-rays above 30,000 eV, about three times more than what can be explained by the shock waves in the collision winds.
In comparison, the visible light energy oscillates between 2 and 3 eV.
The team's analysis, presented in an article published on Monday, July 2 in Nature Astronomy, shows that these "hard" radiographs vary with the binary orbital period and show a similar pattern of energy production as the gamma rays observed by Fermi.
The researchers say that the best explanation for both the emission of X-rays and the emission of gamma rays is the acceleration of electrons in violent shock waves along the boundary of collision stellar winds.
Some of the super-fast electrons, as well as other accelerated particles, must escape from the system and perhaps some will eventually wander to Earth, where they can be detected as cosmic rays.
The X-rays detected by NuSTAR and the gamma rays detected by Fermi arise from the light of the stars, given a great energy boost by the interactions with these electrons.
Some of the super-fast electrons, as well as other accelerated particles, must escape from the system and perhaps some eventually wander to Earth, where they can be detected as cosmic rays.
"We have known for a long time that the region around Eta Carinae is the source of energy emission in X-rays and high-energy gamma rays," said Fiona Harrison, NuSTAR principal investigator and professor of astronomy at Caltech in Pasadena. , California.
"But until NuSTAR was able to identify the radiation, demonstrate that it comes from the binary and study its properties in detail, the origin was mysterious."