This is the busiest star factory in the galaxy

This amazing image reveals the Great Carina Nebula, one of the most active star-forming regions in our galaxy. But it isn't just new stars that are being born in the nebula, as old stars are also dying in spectacular supernovas.

Even by the standards of our usual space porn, this is some seriously hardcore, breathtaking astrophotography.

While I stop to untangle that metaphor, I'll let a NASA astronomer explain just what's going on in the nebula:

A jewel of the southern sky, the Great Carina Nebula, also known as NGC 3372, spans over 300 light-years, one of our galaxy's largest star forming regions. Like the smaller, more northerly Great Orion Nebula, the Carina Nebula is easily visible to the unaided eye, though at a distance of 7,500 light-years it is some 5 times farther away.

This gorgeous telescopic portrait reveals remarkable details of the region's glowing filaments of interstellar gas and obscuring cosmic dust clouds. Wider than the Full Moon in angular size, the field of view stretches nearly 100 light-years across the nebula. The Carina Nebula is home to young, extremely massive stars, including the still enigmatic variable Eta Carinae, a star with well over 100 times the mass of the Sun.

Eta Carinae is the brightest star at the left, near the dusty Keyhole Nebula (NGC 3324). While Eta Carinae itself maybe on the verge of a supernova explosion, X-ray images indicate that the Great Carina Nebula has been a veritable supernova factory.

For more amazing views of the Carina Nebula, check out our previous posts here and here. You can check out the full-size image over at NASA's Astronomy Photo of the Day.

Via NASA. Image by Robert Gendler and Ryan Hannahoe.