Watch: Visualization reveals the drama of dying star Eta Carine

Roughly 180 years after astronomers spotted it, this massive star has been mapped out in all its glory.


Roughly 182 years ago, astronomers spotted an unexpected explosion in the sky.

Eta Carine became one of the most brilliant stars visible on Earth in the 1840s as it blew up 7,500 light years away.

Today, you can’t see Eta Carine with a naked eye.

But it’s still one of the most massive stars in the Milky Way, and it left behind another formation in the wake of the 1840’s “Great Eruption.”

Jon Morse (University of Colorado) & NASA Hubble Space Telescope

Eta Carine’s explosion created the Homunculus nebula, a cloud of gas and dust that is still expanding more than two centuries after the eruption.

Mapping Eta Carine and its surrounding gas cloud has been an ongoing project for today’s astronomers.

X-ray: NASA/CXC; Ultraviolet/Optical: NASA/STScI; Combined Image: NASA/ESA/N. Smith (University of Arizona), J. Morse (BoldlyGo Institute) and A. Pagan

On January 25, NASA released a new 3D visualization of the formation in great detail, imaged in different wavelengths.


Here are four views of Eta Carine:

Visible light shows the hourglass shape of Eta Carine.


Add in ultraviolet light and the rays of energy that penetrate from Eta Carine through the nebula are visible.


This layer represents a cloud of hydrogen gas that was emitted from the explosion.


And finally, X-ray waves represent the highest energy emitted from Eta Carine. They also indicate that the star had multiple explosions.

The Great Eruption won’t be Eta Carine’s last time to shine.

It has yet to explode into a supernova — the next phase for a dying star of its size.


However, that won’t be for several million years, and we don’t know who, if anyone, will be around to see it next time.

Thanks for reading,
head home for more!