Astro-Images | Stellar Nursery NGC3603

The Carina constellation lies about 20,000 light years away. It is too far south in the sky for me to see. Within Carina is a cluster of bright stars surrounded by clouds of gas and dust. These stars formed about the same time. Their intense light has blown away the nearby gas and dust revealing the group of bright stars in this ESA image from Chile.

European Space Agency | VLT Unit Telescopes | Cerro Paranal, Chile

The stars differ in size, mass, temperature, and color. The mass of a star determines the pace of its evolution over time. This cluster contain stars in various stages of their lives. Astronomers are able to do detailed analyses of their life cycles with this snapshot in time.

This cluster NGC 3603 has some of the most massive stars known. They burn through their hydrogen fuel quickly demonstrating the phrase to ‘live fast and die young’.

Zoom into Carina to find the location of NGC 3603. Credit: NASA, ESA, and G. Bacon (STScI).

Below is my version of the colorized NGC 3603 using greyscale images from Hubble. The resulting colors depend on several factors such as color filters used to make the original greyscale images and the choices made in hue and saturation in software such as Photoshop. An important point to make is that various colors help us see different features, structures, and processes. They are not typically what the eye would see.

Hubble Legacy Archive | NGC 3603 | My Version

7 thoughts on “Astro-Images | Stellar Nursery NGC3603

  1. One gets the impression that the stars in clusters like this one are close together, but I know they must be separated by light-years from one another. This is a question of scale, the apparent diameter of each star compared to the apparent separation from its companions. In other words, do photos present a falsely-large image of a star’s light?

    • Yes. Photos of stars do present an enlarged image called an Airy disc. The size of the disc is a function of wavelength and size of aperture of the lens system. Diffraction is the cause. Good point you make, Jim.

  2. Carina is a very busy region of the sky. I am sorry you can’t see it from your latitude. If it was visible in the northern hemisphere, the Carina Nebula would be the most photographed object, even more than M42.

    NGC 3603 is a stunning object but one of the smaller and more distant open clusters and is better suited to telescopes like Hubble.

    With regard to the interesting question asked by Jim Wheeler above, “do photos present a falsely-large image of a star’s light?”: I don’t think it misrepresents the stars brightness. The way I see it is that astrophotography captures star brightness in the form of spillage into adjacent pixels, depending on exposure settings.

    In a photo, you cannot perceive the pin-point brightness in the same way the naked eye does. Instead, for any given image, the relative apparent magnitudes of the stars are measurable in terms of their captured pixel diameters.


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