Feeds

Eta Carinae brightens Chandra's day

New pics of an old explosion

Application security programs and practises

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. ®

Build a business case: developing custom apps

More from The Register

next story
Just TWO climate committee MPs contradict IPCC: The two with SCIENCE degrees
'Greenhouse effect is real, but as for the rest of it ...'
BEST BATTERY EVER: All lithium, all the time, plus a dash of carbon nano-stuff
We have found the Holy Grail (of batteries) - boffins
Asteroid's DINO KILLING SPREE just bad luck – boffins
Sauricide WASN'T inevitable, reckon scientists
Flamewars in SPAAACE: cooler fires hint at energy efficiency
Experiment aboard ISS shows we should all chill out for cleaner engines
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
Boffins discuss AI space program at hush-hush IARPA confab
IBM, MIT, plenty of others invited to fill Uncle Sam's spy toolchest, but where's Google?
Famous 'Dish' radio telescope to be emptied in budget crisis: CSIRO
Radio astronomy suffering to protect Square Kilometre Array
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable
Learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.