Eta Car optical and X-ray image
Credit: X-ray: M. F. Corcoran & NASA; optical: Nathan Smith, Jon Morse, & NASA

Will Doomed Star Doom Us?

Stars live as long as they have nuclear fuel. Stars can eventually run out of fuel, and if the star is very massive, it may explode. Massive stars also run through their fuel more quickly than stars of lower mass. One of the fastest burning stars is named Eta Carinae. Eta Car is thought to be one of the most massive stars in our Galaxy, and one of the most unstable. The image above is a composite of an optical image from the Hubble Space Telescope (in red and blue) and an X-ray image from the Chandra X-ray Observatory (in white, yellow and green). The star itself is the bright point of light at the center of the image, while the bubble-shaped optical nebula was produced by an eruption of the star in the 19th century. Farther out there is an irregular nebula, which is surrounded by a broken ellipse of X-ray emitting gas. Even though Eta Car is about 8000 light years from earth, the explosion of the star may pose a threat to life on earth, as a new study shows.

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Each week the HEASARC brings you new, exciting and beautiful images from X-ray and Gamma ray astronomy. Check back each week and be sure to check out the HEAPOW archive!

Page Author: Dr. Michael F. Corcoran
Last modified Friday, 20-Apr-2012 15:27:17 EDT