Above and Beyond: Eta Carinae

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Roughly 8,000 light-years from Earth, an unstable star, Eta Carinae, teters on the brink of destruction. In fact, it might be two massive stars in tight orbit around each other, with one or both expected to explode before too long.

Produced by the Space Telescope Science Institute’s Office of Public Outreach.
All images, illustrations, and videos courtesy of NASA, ESA, and STScI except:
·       Night sky imagery created with Stellarium
·       Images of supernova in the Pinwheel Galaxy (SN 2011fe) courtesy of Peter Nugent and the Palomar Transient Factory, Thunderf00t (Wikipedia), and BJ Fulton/LCOGT
·       Type Ia supernova animation courtesy of ESO/M. Kornmesser
·       Taurus constellation drawing from Firmamentum Sobiescianum sive Uranographia by Johannes Hevelius, courtesy of the United States Naval Observatory
·       Black-and-white Crab Nebula image: Bill Schoening/NOAO/AURA/NSF
·       Drawing of the Crab Nebula by William Parsons, the Third Earl of Rosse
Written by Vanessa Thomas
Designed by John Godfrey


 Text, Eta Carinae 

Roughly 8,000 light-years from Earth, a star known as Eta Carinae is on the brink of destruction. 

Eta Carinae is unstable and prone to violent outbursts. 

The temperamental star sits hidden at the center of two billowing lobes of dust and gas, which it blew out during an eruption witnessed in the 19th century. 

Among the most massive stars known, Eta Carinae might actually be two massive stars orbiting tightly around one another. 

Astronomers expect one or both stars to blow up as a titanic supernova before too long. 

In fact, an explosion might have already happened, but we won't receive news of the blast until its light reaches us 8,000 years later.