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The Eta Carina Nebula
The Eta-Carina nebula is one of the nicest things you can see in the sky from the South Hemisphere as long as you have access to dark skies. I decided to create a special gallery in my website to collect the different nightscapes that feature this nebula in a leading role and this post is a quick description of what the nebula is and how it looks from my location.
The nebula is around the world-famous star Eta Carinae, a stellar system located at abour 7500 light years from Earth. One of the members of the Eta-Carina system is a massive blue luminous star about 120 to 150 solar masses. The star is so massive that is close to the Eddington limit meaning that its gravity is barely enough to contain the heat and radiation that the star generates.
Scientists agree that Eta-Carina will one day explode in a cataclismic event and become a supernova or even an hypernova, the event will be without a doubt the biggest explosion in the history of our galaxy. The star will become so bright that it will be possible to see it in daylight and it will cast shadows and be bright enough to read a book by its light at night. This can happen in a million years or it can happen tomorrow, nobody knows.
Eta Carina is a variable and erratic star. Today it's a magnitude 4 star, barely visible to the naked eye. In 1843 the star experienced a small explosion and became the second brightest star in the sky at magnitude -0.8, only Sirius was brighter. The event ejected a lot of material and is now part of what we know as the Eta Carina Nebula.
The Nebula is very bright and from a dark location can be seen with the naked eye. It lies just in the middle of the Milky Way in a very photogenic area of the night sky. It's near the coalsack nebula, a very dark patch of dust that occults the Milky Way. These two nebulas create a beautiful contrast in photos. The coalsack nebula being so dark and the Eta Carina nebula being so bright.
This poster shows some of the many deep sky objects that can be found around the Eta Carine Nebula and the nebula itself. With a higher magnification the center of the nebula features two expanding lobes from its recent ejection of material creating what is known as the "Homunculus Nebula"
Eta Carina is a fascinating star for astronomers, photographers and admirers of the night sky, it keeps ticking and ticking above our heads waiting for its final cataclismic show.
I will keep shooting the nebula and adding photos to the gallery and maybe one day I will be one of many bloggers writing about the mother of all astronomical events. You never know...
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