A team of NASA astronomers has created a new timelapse sequence that provides a detailed view of the Great Eruption of Eta Carinae, a cosmic explosion that occurred in the 1840s. Eta Carinae is a massive star that is part of a binary system with another high-mass star. During the Great Eruption, Eta Carinae expelled an immense amount of stellar material, forming two gas clouds known as the Homunculus Nebula.
Based on over 20 years of observations from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, the new video showcases the aftermath of this gigantic explosion. It is observed that the eruption was so bright that for decades, Eta Carinae was the second brightest object in the night sky, following only the star Sirius.
Observations from the Chandra X-ray Observatory and the European Space Agency’s XMM-Newton spacecraft have revealed important information about the history of Eta Carinae. It has been discovered that the material expelled during the Great Eruption is expanding at an impressive speed of 7 million kilometers per hour.
The existence of a faint layer of X-rays outside the bright X-ray ring surrounding the Homunculus Nebula has provided clues about the background history of Eta Carinae. Scientists believe that this layer of X-rays is the shockwave from the Great Eruption, providing valuable insights into the past of this star.
The story of Eta Carinae remains intriguing and full of surprises. Evidence suggests that this massive star has survived a very powerful explosion that would typically destroy a star.
Source: Michael F. Corcoran et al, The Expansion of the X-Ray Nebula Around η Car, The Astrophysical Journal (2022). DOI: 10.3847/1538-4357/ac8f27.