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Looking for Eta Carinae Twins in Distant Galaxies

7 Jan 2016, 17:50 UTC
Looking for Eta Carinae Twins in Distant Galaxies
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If There’s One, There are Probably Others
A huge, billowing pair of gas and dust clouds are captured in this stunning NASA Hubble Space Telescope image of the supermassive star Eta Carinae. Courtesy NASA/ESA/STScI
I didn’t get to write about this yesterday, what with all the other exciting astronomy results being thrown at us this week. But, there’s a big, massive, bright, dying star out there that’s going to blow up. It’s called Eta Carinae, visible from Earth’s surface from the Southern Hemisphere. It’s so fascinating, astronomers want to know if there are any others like it out there. So, they looked through data from Spitzer Space Telescope and Hubble Space Telescope to see if any are hidden away in other galaxies.
Eta Carinae is actually two stars in a 5.5-year orbit. The larger, brighter one (the primary) is a luminous blue variable that started out its life with at least 150 times the mass of the Sun. Over time, it has lost the equivalent of about 30 Suns. That’s the monster star which will blow sometime soon. By that, I mean, it will explode as a class of supernova so huge and powerful and bright that astronomers call it ...

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