Feeds

Eta Carinae brightens Chandra's day

New pics of an old explosion

High performance access to file storage

NASA has released a striking new image of explosive neighbouring star Eta Carinae. The star is huge: somewhere between 100 and 150 times the size of our own sun. It is also consuming its fuel at a truly astonishing rate.

The star is currently teetering along a knife edge, almost at equilibrium: its gravity just about balanced by the huge outward pressure generated by the nuclear furnace at its core. But the star is incredibly unstable, and the tiniest perturbation could cause a massive eruption of material.

Star goes boom: Credit Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/GSFC/M.Corcoran et al.; Optical: NASA/STScI

Star goes boom. Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/GSFC/M.Corcoran et al.

Optical: NASA/STScI

Back in 1840, this is exactly what happened. The star shed something close to 10 times the mass of our sun in a single explosive belch of matter. Eta Carinae briefly became the second brightest star in the sky.

The remnants of the explosion - which should have destroyed the star - can still be seen today in the image that NASA has released. The image is a composite, with data taken from both Hubble and the Chandra-X observatory.

The blue areas, courtesy of Hubble, show cool optical emissions from the a bi-polar shell of dust and gas the star shrugged off in 1840. This area is surrounded by a cloud of fainter material, more ragged in appearance.

Data from the X-ray observatory, Chandra, shows the regions much further from the star where the material it expelled has collided with gas and dust nearby. The collision has heated the matter above a scorching million degrees.

The X-ray data show that this superheated region is filled with complex atoms, such as nitrogen, which would have been produced inside Eta Carinae itself, and become part of the stellar surface before being ejected. They also reveal a slight glow of X-ray reflection on the optical nebula.

NASA researchers explain that the X-rays causing this come from very close to the star itself. They are generated by the interaction of Eta-Carinae's million mile-per-hour stellar wind, and the much faster wind from its companion star (not pictured).

NASA says the companion star is something of a mystery: it is not known what role it has played in the evolution of Eta-Carinae, nor what it might do in the future. ®

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Fancy joining Reg hack on quid-a-day challenge?
Recruiting now for charity starvation diet
Red-faced LOHAN team 'fesses up in blown SPEARS fuse fiasco
Standing in the corner, big pointy 'D' hats
KILLER SPONGES menacing California coastline
Surfers are safe, crustaceans less so
LOHAN's Punch and Judy show relaunches Thursday
Weather looking good for second pop at test flights
Discovery time for 200m WONDER MATERIALS shaved from 4 MILLENNIA... to 4 years
Alloy, Alloy: Boffins in speed-classification breakthrough
Elon Musk's LEAKY THRUSTER gas stalls Space Station supply run
Helium seeps from Falcon 9 first stage, delays new legs for NASA robonaut
Top Secret US payload launched into space successfully
Clandestine NRO spacecraft sets off on its unknown mission
New FEMTO-MOON sighted BIRTHING from Saturn's RING
Icy 'Peggy' looks to be leaving the outer rings
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Learn about three of the top mobile application security threats facing businesses today and recommendations on how to mitigate the risk.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
SANS - Survey on application security programs
In this whitepaper learn about the state of application security programs and practices of 488 surveyed respondents, and discover how mature and effective these programs are.