Above and Beyond: Eta Carinae

Video Player

Video Versions

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.


Star Forming Nebulas
Produced by the Space Telescope Science Institute’s Office of Public Outreach.
All images, illustrations, and videos courtesy of NASA, ESA, and STScI except:
·       Image of reflection nebula NGC 1788 courtesy of T.A. Rector (University of Alaska Anchorage), H. Schweiker (WIYN and NOAO/AURA/NSF) & S. Pakzad (NOAO/AURA/NSF)
·       Taurus constellation drawing from Firmamentum Sobiescianum sive Uranographia by Johannes Hevelius, courtesy of the United States Naval Observatory
·       Orion constellation photo courtesy of Akira Fujii
·       Illustration of circumstellar disk and jets courtesy of ESO/L. Calçada/M. Kornmesser
·       Image of HH 34 jets courtesy of ESO
·       Star formation animation courtesy of Aimei Kutt (Brown University/STScI)
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.