It's an extremely rare sight difficult to find -- but scientists knew they were out there.
It’s a truly amazing sight: Eta Carinae, the most massive and bright stellar system within 10,000 light years of our planet, had a huge eruption first seen in the 19th century that today still shrouds the system — and scientists think they’ve found five other objects with similar properties in other galaxies.
The expanding clouds of gas and dust that cover Eta Carinae was up until this point the only object of its kind that could be found in our galaxy, but using NASA’s Spitzer and Hubble space telescopes, scientists think they’ve found more, according to a Space Daily report.
Massive stars are hard to find. They tend to hold a lot of clues to the evolution of a galaxy, making them so important to study. These stars produce a lot of the organic matter that is necessary to life.
Eta Carinae is huge, about 5 million times the luminosity of our sun and located just 7,500 light-years away. It likely has about 90 times our sun’s mass, and a smaller star nearby has about 30 solar masses.
Eta Carinae’s eruption was first observed in the 1840s. It’s rare to capture a star during a major outburst like this, and until now scientists hadn’t seen anything like Eta Carinae. But scientists knew there must be other examples out there, and they had to figure out where they were.
They used the Spitzer telescope to look for a steady increase in brightness in stars an dcomapre the emission to dimming seen in Hubble’s optical images to determine how much dust is present compared to what is seen around Eta Carinae.
Between 2012 and 2014, scientists failed to find twins of Eta Carinae because they are so rare. But in a follow-on survey last year, two candidate Eta twins were found 15 million light-years away. They appear to have the same optical and infrared properties as Eta Carinae.