These two images of a three-light-year-high pillar of star birth demonstrate how observations taken in visible and infrared light by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope reveal dramatically different and complementary views of an object. The pair of images demonstrate how Hubble's new panchromatic view of the universe shows striking differences between visible and infrared wavelengths. This turbulent cosmic pinnacle lies within a tempestuous stellar nursery called the Carina Nebula, located 7,500 light-years away in the southern constellation Carina. The images mark the 20th anniversary of Hubble's launch and deployment into an orbit around Earth.
[Left] – This visible-light view shows how scorching radiation and fast winds (streams of charged particles) from super-hot newborn stars in the nebula are shaping and compressing the pillar, causing new stars to form within it. Infant stars buried inside it fire off jets of gas that can be seen streaming from towering peaks. Streamers of hot ionized gas can be seen flowing off the ridges of the structure, and wispy veils of gas and dust, illuminated by starlight, float around it. The dense parts of the pillar are resisting being eroded by radiation much like a towering butte in Utah's Monument Valley withstands erosion by water and wind. The colors in this composite image correspond to the glow of oxygen (blue), hydrogen and nitrogen (green), and sulfur (red).
[Right] – This near-infrared-light image shows a plethora of stars behind the gaseous veil of the nebula's background wall of hydrogen, laced with dust. The foreground pillar becomes semi-transparent because infrared light from background stars penetrates through much of the dust. A few stars inside the pillar also become visible. The false colors are assigned to three different infrared wavelength ranges.
Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3 observed the pillar in February and March 2010.