Image Credit: NASA, ESA, M. Livio and the Hubble 20th Anniversary Team (STScI)
Mystic Mountain is a turbulent star-forming region of three light-years tall inside the Carina Nebula (NGC 3372), located in the Carina–Sagittarius Arm of our Milky Way, roughly 7,500 light-years from Earth in the southern constellation of Carina.
From the outside of this pillar of thick gas and dust, material is being eroded by fierce winds of energetic particles and intense radiation from super-hot newborn stars. From the inside the pillar is also being pushed apart, as infant stars buried inside it fire off jets of hot ionized gas that can be seen streaming from towering peaks. The denser parts of the pillar are resisting being eroded by radiation.
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. 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 its towering peaks. The denser parts of the pillar are resisting being eroded by radiation.
Two of the most prominent streamers — one at the very top of the longest finger of dust (originating from the bulbous pinnacle) and one in the center of the image, known as the Herbig–Haro objects HH 901 and HH 902, respectively.
Herbig–Haro objects (HH) – after astronomers George Herbig and Guillermo Haro – are narrow jets of gas and matter ejected by young stars at speeds of 100 to 1000 kilometers per second that collide with the surrounding nebula, producing bright shock fronts that glow as the gas is heated by friction while the surrounding gas is excited by the high-energy radiation of nearby hot stars.
This composite image was taken on 1-2 February 2010 with the Wide Field Planetary Camera 3 onboard the Hubble Space Telescope using three different color filters. The colors correspond to the glow of oxygen (blue), hydrogen and nitrogen (green), and sulfur (red).