The Carina Nebula is about 7500 light years away in the direction of the Carina constellation. Carina was originally part of a very large constellation Argo Nevis but Nicolas de Lacaille divided it into three new constellations in 1763, see Carina (the keel), Puppis (the poop deck) and Vela (the ship’s sails). It is also known as NGC 3372 and was discovered in 1751 by Nicolas Louis de Lacaille, while observing from the Cape of Good Hope. It is a colossal emission nebula about 300 light years wide that contains extensive star forming regions. A very interesting object in the Carina Nebula is the Homonculus Nebula which is a planetary nebula that is being ejected by a luminous blue variable star, Eta Carinae (shorthand ? Carinae or ? Car). This star is one of the most massive stars known and has reached the theoretical upper limit for the mass of a star and is therefore unstable. The instability results in periodic outbursts during which it brightens and them fades again. During one such outburst between the 11th and the 14th of March 1843 it became the second brightest star in the sky but then faded away. Around 1940 it began to brighten again, eventually peaking in 2014 but not achieving nearly the levels of brightness seen in 1843.
This nebula is very bright and can be seen well in small telescopes, and faintly without a telescope at all. The original of this chart may be viewed here.
Leslie Rose is one of the regulars who attend the Southern Star Party and the photograph featured here, was taken by Leslie. The first SSP he attended was in March 2011 when Leslie had neither telescope nor camera!
This photograph was the winner of Celestron Telescopes South Africa’s November Nights competition. Celestron commented that the quality of the pictures they received was amazing and really showcased the beauty of the South African Night Skies. Go here to view Celestron’s Facebook page or, if you wish to visit the Celestron webpage, click here.
Leslie’s prize was a pair of Celestron UpClose G2 10×50 Binoculars. Congratulations Leslie and thank you Celestron for running competitions like this to encourage astrophotographers.