Eta Carinae

This "almost true-color" image shows material surrounding the star Eta Carinae obtained with the second-generation Wide Field and Planetary Camera installed in the Hubble Space Telescope in December 1993. One of the best-studied objects in the sky Eta Carinae has a mass about 150 times that of our sun and is about 4 million times brighter than the sun. Eta Carinae is highly unstable and prone to violent outbursts; the last of these occurred in 1841, when despite its distance Eta Carinae briefly became the second brightest star in the sky. Since then the star has grown more than 600 times fainter in visible light, so that today it is only barely visible to the naked eye. The clear view provided by WFPC-II allows study of the expanding shell of material surrounding the star.


This image is a combination of three different frames taken in red, green and blue light. The ghostly red outer glow surrounding the star is composed of the very fastest moing material ejected during the 1841 outburst. The bright blue-white nebulosity closer in to the star also consists of ejected stellar material.

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