The Great Nebula in Carina, NGC 3372
AAO image reference UKS 6.    « Previous || Next »

The Great Nebula in Carina, NGC 3372, Eta Carinae
Top left is NE. Image width is about 100 arc min.
Image and text © 1982-2010, Australian Astronomical Observatory
Photograph from UK Schmidt plates by David Malin.

Although no bright naked-eye stars are associated with the Carina nebula now, 150 years ago there blazed forth here one of the most unusual and peculiar stars ever seen. The star is known as Eta Carinae and for a few months in 1843 it was the second or third brightest star in the sky. Since then it has faded and is today about 1000 times fainter than it was at its brightest, as the nebula it created during its outburst has cooled and become opaque. However, a gradual brightening over the last decade or so has again raised the star to naked-eye visibility, raising the interesting possibility of another spectacular outburst.

The whole region around Eta Carinae is rich in hot stars of which Eta is an extreme example and it is their combined radiation that produces the spectacular Carina nebula that dominates this picture. The nebula and its peculiar star are about 7000 light years distant.

Related images
AAT 9.   The Eta Carina Nebula NGC 3372
AAT 32.  Eta Carina and the Keyhole nebula
AAT 37.  Eta Carina and Trumpler 14
AAT 45.  The Homunculus around Eta Carina
UKS 6a. The Great Nebula in Carina, NGC 3372 (wide field)
Constellation of Carina (external site)

For details of object position and photographic exposure, search technical table by UKS reference number.

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Updated by David Malin, 2010, July 25