Super Sharp Hubble Space Telescope View of Eta Carinae

Eta Carinae was the site of a giant outburst about 150 years ago, when it became one of the brightest stars in the southern sky. Though the star released as much visible light as a supernova explosion, it survived the outburst. Somehow, the explosion produced two polar lobes and a large thin equatorial disk, all moving outward at about 1.5 million miles per hour.


The new observation shows that excess violet light escapes along the equatorial plane between the bipolar lobes. Apparently there is relatively little dusty debris between the lobes down by the star; most of the blue light is able to escape. The lobes, on the other hand, contain large amounts of dust which preferentially absorb blue light, causing the lobes to appear reddish.

This image is also available as hi-res color JPEG [256k], or as hi-res b/w JPEG [262k]. SEDS also presents the Press Release for this image


The furious expansion of a huge, billowing pair of gas and dust clouds are captured in this NASA Hubble Space Telescope comparison image of the supermassive star Eta Carinae.

To create the picture, astronomers aligned and subtracted two images of Eta Carinae taken 17 months apart (April 1994, September 1995). Black represents where the material was located in the older image, and white represents the more recent location.

(The light and dark streaks that make an 'X' pattern are instrumental artifacts caused by the extreme brightness of the central star. The bright white region at the center of the image results from the star and its immediate surroundings being 'saturated' in one of the images.)

This difference image shows that material closer into the star (which is the bright blob at the image's center) is blasting into space more quickly than material farther from the star.

This image may be obtained as hi-res JPEG [501k]

Photo Credit: Jon Morse (University of Colorado), and NASA

  • 3-dimensional HST image of Eta Carinae
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    Hartmut Frommert
    Christine Kronberg

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    Last Modification: February 2, 1998