Monday, April 23, 2012

Stellar art! - Eta Carinae Nebula

A Hubble Space Telescope image of NGC 3372.
The image is 50 light-years wide and a composite of 48 frames.

Because of their disproportionately high luminosities, very large stars such as Eta Carinae use up their fuel very quickly. Eta Carinae is expected to explode as a supernova or hypernova some time within the next million years or so.

As its current age and evolutionary path are uncertain, however, it could explode within the next several millennia or even in the next few years.

LBVs such as Eta Carinae may be a stage in the evolution of the most massive stars; the prevailing theory now holds that they will exhibit extreme mass loss and become Wolf-Rayet stars before they go supernova, if they are unable to hold their mass to explode as a hypernova.

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