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The Homunculus Nebula


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Eta Carina Homunculus nebula
C14 Edge HD
1500 of 3000 frames
Gamma 90
49ms exposure
149 gain
The Homunculus Nebula is a bipolar emission and reflection nebula surrounding the massive star system Eta Carinae, about 7,500 light-years (2,300 parsecs) from Earth. The nebula is embedded within the much larger Carina Nebula, a large star-forming H II region.
The Homunculus consists of two lobes, referred to as NW and SE based on their orientation as seen from Earth, each approximately 7" wide by 5" long. There is also a ragged equatorial skirt of material which can be seen faintly in deep images at certain wavelengths. The lobes are mostly hollow with the material strongly concentrated towards the poles.

The Homunculus was ejected in an enormous outburst from Eta Carinae. Light from this event reached Earth in 1841, creating a brightening event in the night sky which was visible from the Earth's surface at the time. During the event (as seen from Earth) Eta Carinae briefly became the second-brightest star in the sky, after Sirius; but the ejected gas and dust have since obscured much of its light. The near-supernova explosion produced two polar lobes, and a large but thin equatorial disk, all moving outward at up to 670 km/s (1,500,000 mph).

The Homunculus Nebula is a virtually unique structure, believed to result from the extremely young age. This means that the shape and structure is almost entirely due to the original eruption rather than the interaction with surrounding interstellar material. Suggestions that the waist between the two lobes was formed by "pinching" from a dense surrounding material have been disproved, and the bipolar shells are now believed to be caused by concentrated polar outflows of material, with the equatorial skirt formed by breakout of faster ejected material through the thinnest parts of the shells. The ejection of material preferentially along the axis of rotation of the stars, or of the binary orbit, may be due to the rotation of Eta Carinae A itself resulting in stronger mass loss towards the poles.

Captured by Avani Soares - Parsec Observatory
Processed by Rafael Compassi - Eimer Sternen Observatory


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