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This gorgeous photo shows Eta Carinae, the brightest star in our galaxy - five million times brighter than the Sun. It's so bright and so active that astronomers believe it will go supernova at any moment now!


Click the image to see the Chandra spacecraft story.


Eta Carinae is the bright spot in the center of this larger nebula, called the Carina Nebula. The energy it blasts out into the gas and dust is responsible for forming the baby stars scattered across the nebula (the clumps at the tops of the pillars). Notice how the babies all seem to be reaching toward Momma star. What an amazing shot:


Click the image to see the Spitzer Telescope story.


Of course, no post about this star-birthing region would be complete without showing you how it looks through the Hubble Space Telescope:


Click the image to see the story.


Over the past few years, photos like these appear every day... perhaps that's a bit of an exaggeration, but you get the idea: Do a quick search on any astronomical object and you'll not only find pretty photos but also great stories. It's a wonderful time to be alive.

Chris

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( 13 comments — Leave a comment )
desperance
Apr. 14th, 2010 06:01 pm (UTC)
I love how Hubble and Spitzer offer such different images: like human witnesses, two opposing views of the same event...
mckitterick
Apr. 14th, 2010 06:05 pm (UTC)
I know! What a great way to put it. And Chandra, using a wide spectrum of wavelengths, completely ignores the glory surrounding the star's bloated atmosphere.
miischelle
Apr. 14th, 2010 06:04 pm (UTC)
Wow. These are gorgeous.
And don't you mean that astronomers are waiting to see if Eta Carinae has gone supernova? ;)
mckitterick
Apr. 14th, 2010 06:07 pm (UTC)
Hahahaha! Excellent point. At 7000 light years away, it's probably been reduced to smithereens and a bright core by now. I wonder what happens to all those baby stars when Momma goes BOOM....
miischelle
Apr. 14th, 2010 06:50 pm (UTC)
Would they absorb some of the extra energy and explode themselves? Would they get "moved"?
mckitterick
Apr. 14th, 2010 07:17 pm (UTC)
Only supermassive stars go supernova; stars like our Sun will eventually go nova, which is non-explosive (though it'll expand to bigger than the orbit of the Earth, uh-oh). They're too massive to move, as well.

However, they might get their atmospheres torn off, and the gas and dus around them will almost certainly get blown into deep space. So they're as big as they're going to get.
miischelle
Apr. 14th, 2010 08:01 pm (UTC)
Ohhhhh....sad stumpy midgey baby stars.....
mckitterick
Apr. 14th, 2010 08:25 pm (UTC)
I know! Reminds me of an Allosaurus momma: evidence suggests they eat their young, too.
dichroic
Apr. 14th, 2010 08:43 pm (UTC)
I need someone to start dying yarn inspired by galaxy colors.
mckitterick
Apr. 14th, 2010 08:47 pm (UTC)
Oooh, that'd be really neat!
xjenavivex
Apr. 14th, 2010 09:08 pm (UTC)
oooooh ahhhhhh
mckitterick
Apr. 15th, 2010 12:12 am (UTC)
I know!
tully01
Apr. 15th, 2010 07:10 pm (UTC)
Between Hubble and Herschel I may need a spare hard drive just for all my wallpaper images! Now if only I could train my automatic wallpaper changer to put different WP's on each of my two monitors.
( 13 comments — Leave a comment )