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A new image of the Carina nebula reveal the cold dusty clouds from which stars form in the bustling stellar nursery. These clouds of dust and gas play host to some of the most massive and luminous stars in our galaxy, which make them scintillating test beds for studying the interactions between these young stars and their parent molecular clouds. The new observations were made with the Atacama Pathfinder Experiment (APEX) telescope, which is located about 16,700 feet (5,100 meters) above sea level at the Llano de Chajnantor Observatory in the Atacama desert in northern Chile. The Carina nebula is located about 7,500 light-years away in the constellation of Carina, or The Keel. It is one of the brightest nebulas in the sky because of its large population of massive stars.
The nebula is about 150 light-years wide, which makes it several times larger than the well-known Orion nebula. The Carina nebula contains stars with a total mass equivalent to more than 25,000 suns. The mass of the gas and dust clouds in the bustling nebula is equal to about 140,000 suns. But despite such staggering figures, only a fraction of the gas in the Carina nebula is found in clouds that are sufficiently dense to collapse and create new stars within the next million years.