Release 945 of 1,153

Doomed Star Eta Carinae

Release date: Jun 10, 1996 12:00 AM (EDT)

A huge, billowing pair of gas and dust clouds is captured in this stunning Hubble telescope picture of the super-massive star Eta Carinae.

Even though Eta Carinae is more than 8,000 light-years away, features 10 billion miles across (about the diameter of our solar system) can be distinguished. Eta Carinae suffered a giant outburst about 150 years ago, when it became one of the brightest stars in the southern sky. Though the star released as much visible light as a supernova explosion, it survived the outburst. Somehow, the explosion produced two lobes and a large, thin equatorial disk, all moving outward at about 1.5 million miles per hour. Estimated to be 100 times heftier than our Sun, Eta Carinae may be one of the most massive stars in our galaxy.