The Eta Carina Nebula, formally classified as NGC 3372, is a mere nine thousand light years from Earth. The nebula lies in the Sagittarius arm of our galaxy. This large nebula, barely visible with the naked eye, contains many star clusters surrounded by gases such as hydrogen, and oxygen. When viewed through a telescope and processed using narrowband imaging, however, the nebula provides a stunning sight.
Our eyes, as sensitive as they are, do not allow us to see all the colors in the universe. Some colors are beyond our visual limits, such as the colors of the gases present in the Carina Nebula. Narrowband Imaging overcomes the limitations of our eyes by photographing the invisible colors separately. Converting the invisible colors into colors visible to us and combining the photographs into one results in a full-color, full-spectrum image. Hydrogen, the predominant gas in the Carina Nebula, appears as red tones, and oxygen appears as blue hues. Sulfur appears as green tones, although there isn’t a lot of sulfur in this nebula. Finally, full-color long exposure photographs are added to provide the true colors of the stars.
The result is Carina Nebula, a deep space image of one of the largest, most complex nebulas in our night sky, and a reminder of how expansive and vast the universe it. The star clusters within it are stars just being born and stars exploding in supernovas. As we peer into its depths we are reminded just how wide and vast the universe is.