The Gabriela Mistral Nebula, an emission nebula in Carina

 
The Gabriela Mistral Nebula, an emission nebula in Carina

The Gabriela Mistral Nebula (also known as NGC 3324 and IC 2599) is an emission nebula, an HII region excited by an open star cluster (OCL 819) in its center. It is located about 7,200 light-years away at the northwest corner of the Carina Nebula (NGC 3372) in the southern constellation of Carina. In fact, IC 2599 is the southern part of NGC 3324.

A rich deposit of gas and dust in the NGC 3324 region fuelled a burst of starbirth millions of years ago and led to the creation of several extremely massive and very hot stars. The intense ultraviolet radiation from these hot young stars causes the gas cloud to glow and has carved out a cavity in the surrounding gas and dust. In fact the stars are slowly eroding the gas cloud away.

The dark patches in the image are regions where veils of dust block out the light from the background glowing gas.

Astronomers often attach nicknames to nebulae based on their shape and their earthly likenesses. The edge of the wall of gas and dust at the right bears a strong resemblance to a human face in profile, with the “bump” in the center corresponding to a nose. So, NGC 3324 is often called the Gabriela Mistral nebula, after the Nobel Prize-winning poet from Chile.

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