Visualization shows eruption of massive Eta Carinae star, once one of the brightest

Eta Carinae great eruption/NASA
Posted at 12:01 PM, Jan 26, 2022

A new visualization, among multiple renderings released by NASA this week, shows the famous explosion of one of the most brilliant stars in our night sky.

Eta Carinae's great eruption, which was observed in the 1840s, created a brilliant and "unusual outburst," NASA said. The star managed to survive the massive outburst and has since continued to diminish in brilliance in the decades that followed.

Astronomers used NASA's Hubble Space Telescope along with the Chandra X-ray Observatory to discover more details about how the eruption looked using visible light along with ultraviolet and X-ray light. That's how artists were able to work with astronomers at the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Maryland to create three-dimensional models helping the public and researchers visualize the shape of the glowing gas clouds and what is known as the "homunculus."

Frank Summers, a project lead and principal visualization scientist at STScI said, "The team did such an amazing job representing the volumetric layers that viewers can immediately and intuitively comprehend the complex structure."

In a visualization released by the group, the moving artist's rendering shows the "multiwavelength emissions and three-dimensional structures surrounding Eta Carinae, one of the most massive and eruptive stars in our galaxy," NASA researchers wrote. In the sequence, a layered model is shown, which presents one wavelength at a time, which then builds up to a complex "nested structure," NASA said.

Eta Carine is known as one of the most massive stars that humans have been able to observe. These types of exceptional stars, as astronomers call them, are prone to outbursts during their lives. Eta Carine provides an opportunity for us to study and learn about energetic life, and the death of massive stars, with this star's proximity to Earth.