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This craggy fantasy mountaintop enshrouded by wispy clouds looks like a bizarre landscape from Tolkien's "The Lord of the Rings" or a Dr. Seuss book, depending on your imagination. This NASA Hubble Space Telescope image, however, is even more dramatic than fiction. It captures the chaotic activity atop a three-light-year-tall pillar of gas and dust that is being eaten away by the brilliant light from nearby stars. The pillar is also being assaulted from within, as infant stars buried inside it fire off jets of gas that can be seen streaming from towering peaks.
This giant pillar of gas lies within a tempestuous stellar nursery called the Carina Nebula, located about 7,500 light-years away in the southern constellation Carina. 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.
This image was released in celebration of the 20th anniversary of Hubble's launch and deployment into an orbit around the Earth. The colors in this composite image correspond to the glow of oxygen (blue), hydrogen and nitrogen (green), and sulfur (red).