In the 19th century, Eta Carinae's apparent brightness increased dramatically and then faded. At least some of the cloud of dust and gas that surrounds the star and obscures it from view is thought to have been released at this time. Astronomers recently discovered that Eta Carinae has one or more companion stars.
Image: A composite optical and X-ray image of the turbulent star Eta Carinae (X-ray: NASA/CXC/GSFC/M.Corcoran et al.; Optical: NASA/STScI)
Will this star explode and form a black hole one day?
Patrick Moore and his guests discuss gamma ray bursts.
Sir Patrick Moore and his guests discuss gamma ray bursts, which are thought to be caused by exploding massive stars. Could the star Eta Carinae emit a gamma ray burst one day?
Prof Brian Cox demonstrates gravity’s force on other planets.
Prof Brian Cox simulates the strength of gravity on other planets through a human centrifuge in Holland.
Eta Carinae (η Carinae or η Car) is a stellar system in the constellation Carina, about 7,500 to 8,000 light-years from the Sun. The system contains at least two stars, of which the primary is a luminous blue variable (LBV) that initially had around 150 solar masses, of which it has lost at least 30. A hot supergiant of approximately 30 solar masses is in orbit around the primary, although an enormous thick red nebula surrounding Eta Carinae makes it impossible to detect this companion at optical wavelengths. The Eta Carinae system is enclosed in the Homunculus Nebula, in turn a part of the much larger Carina Nebula, and currently has a combined bolometric luminosity of over five million times the Sun's. It is not visible north of latitude 30°N and is circumpolar south of latitude 30°S. Because of its mass and the stage of its life, it is expected to explode as a supernova or hypernova in the astronomically near future.