DR KRIS DAVIDSON / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY DR KRIS DAVIDSON / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
False-colour optical photograph of the star Eta Carinae & its surrounding Homunculus nebula. Eta Carinae is at the very centre of the picture. In the 1820s, it became 20 times brighter. Its brightness fluctuated over the next 40 years, with a spectacular outburst in March 1843 when it outshone every star in the sky except Sirius. In the 1860s it faded rapidly because of the surroun- ding shell of gas & dust - the Homunculus nebula - ejected during its active phase. The nebula is the multicoloured area around the star. The bright spots at top left are nearby stars. The picture was recorded at the Cerro Tololo observatory in Chile. Reference: Figure 4.35 in THE NEW ASTRONOMY.
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