Astrophotography is one of the most gratifying parts of space exploration, and there’s nothing better at it than Hubble. Recently, it celebrated the 31st anniversary of its launch by taking a spectacular image of one of the most impressive stars in the sky – AG Carinae. In the not too distant future, Hubble, or a successor, might be able to capture an even more spectacular display from the star when it goes supernova.
AG Carinae, located appropriately in the constellation Carina, is one of the most luminous stars in the sky, though its apparent brightness on Earth is somewhat diminished give its 20,000 light year distance from Earth. The star is famous for a number of reasons, including that it is one of only 50 known luminous blue variable stars.
Video showing AG Carinae in all it’s glory.Credit: NASA / ESA / STScI, Leah Hustak (STScI) Alyssa Pagan (STScI), Joseph DePasquale (STScI), Greg T. Bacon (STScI)
Luminous blue variables are extremely short lived and violent, barely balancing between exploding into a supernova and collapsing under its own weight into a black hole. As part of their life cycle, they occasionally emit a spectacular outburst that creates a kind of glowing ...