In the 1840s,erupted in a violent eruption that suddenly made it the second brightest star in the night sky. The star slowly faded over the decades that followed, and today it is shrouded in a spectacular nebula that is still a remarkable sight, especially when observed at different wavelengths of light.
A new visualization from NASA uses the agency’s various space observatories to create a composite 3D view that brings to life the cosmic fallout from one of the more violent celestial episodes that can be seen from Earth.
Images from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and the Chandra X-ray Observatory taken in visible light, ultraviolet and X-rays reveal how the turbulent star illuminated the Homunculus Nebula, created beginning with the so-called “Big eruption“almost 180 years ago.
The eruption blew dust and gas in opposite directions into space, forming the two-lobed hourglass shape that makes up the Homunculus Nebula today.
In addition, astronomers can use the Spitzer Telescope to see through the nebula.
“Spitzer’s infrared image lets us peek through the dust that obscures our view in visible light to reveal the intricate details and extent of the Carina Nebula around this brilliant star.” Robert Hurt, chief visualization scientist at Caltech, said in a statement.
In addition to its melodramatic history, Eta Carinae is one of the most massive stars we know of. Such large fireballs tend to be prone to eruptions and are likely to eventually collapse into a black hole after a supernova explosion.
In other words, this superstar is just warming up and has plans to put on an encore that will literally destroy the house and all the others nearby.