Exploding Star Eta Carinae, Seen in Three Dimensions

Exploding Star Eta Carinae, Seen in Three Dimensions

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Fast Facts
News release ID: STScI-1996-23
Release Date: Jun 10, 1996
Image Use: Copyright
About this image

This is a unique three-dimensional image of the star Eta Carinae, with its twin lobes and equatorial disk of expanding dust and gas. The picture, taken with the Hubble Space Telescope, was assembled from two images of Eta Carinae take 17 months apart (April 1994, September 1995). The motion of the gas and dust between the observations, and Hubble's high resolution, allows astronomers to combine and encode the images to reveal the true three-dimensional geometry of the system.

This image is a red/blue "anaglyph" stereo picture. It will appear in 3-D when viewed using red/blue stereo glasses. Such glasses consist of a red lens over the left eye and a blue lens over the right eye. A true stereo picture consists of two separate images intended to be viewed by each eye independently. An anaglyph image combines the two views by representing one inherently black & white image in blue only and the other in red only. Viewing an anaglyph image with red/blue glasses separates the two views by permitting only the appropriate part of the image to reach the intended eye. Stereo glasses can be made by using red and blue celophane or gelatin filter material. Inexpensive stereo glasses may be purchased where 3-D comic books are sold, among other places.

The resulting view clearly shows the nebula's "barbell" shape of two giant, roughly spherical lobes of ejecta, with the bottom-left lobe in the foreground and the top-right lobe tilted away. Fast-moving material along the star's equator lies in a thin disk between the lobes, like an LP record between two basketballs. The image shows curious streamers of material flowing from the disk far out into space.

The images were taken in violet light with Hubble's Wide Field Planetary Camera 2. The star is more than 8,000 light-years away in the southern constellation Carina.

Massive Stars, Observations, Stars


Jon Morse (University of Colorado), Kris Davidson (University of Minnesota), and NASA