NASA’s experts have created a fantastic visualization of the massive star Eta Carinae. The eye-catching visualization of one of the most extreme stars enriches astronomical learning, which is the goal of NASA’s Universe of Learning.

Hundred Times Heavier than the Sun

The star system Eta Carinae or Eta Car is one of the most fascinating and extreme objects in the Milky Way. The phenomenon consists of at least two giant stars – the larger one is heavier than 100 Suns, and the smaller one is heavier than 30 to 80 Suns. Eta Carinae is a unique object, and it isn’t easy to estimate its further development accurately.

star Eta Carinae surrounded by the Homunkulus Nebula. Credit: Nathan Smith (University of California, Berkeley)

“The Great Eruption” in 1843 brightened Eta Carinae to such an extent that it became the second brightest star in the sky. It was visible by the eye from the Erth. Eta Car survived this partial eruption and has been hidden behind the Homunculus Nebula ever since.

3D Model of the Monstrous Phenomenon

NASA’s Universe of Learning team has created a new visualization of the Eta Carinae object. The visualization shows a wide range of the electromagnetic spectrum – from infrared to X-rays. There are also three-dimensional structures surrounding Eta Carinae.

The use of the new Eta Car model goes beyond visualizations and video sequences. According to Kimberly Arcand, head of data visualization at the Chandra X-ray Center in Cambridge, models like this can be used in 3D printing or augmented reality projects. According to Arcand, this means that “people can access such data, literally and virtually, which is beneficial for teaching and popularizing the universe.”

Massive stars, such as Eta Car, are prone to explosions during their lifetime. Their lives end with a collapse into a black hole, probably accompanied by a supernova explosion. Eta Car is one of the closest and best-studied examples of understanding massive stars’ active life and death.

Source:, Credit: NASA, ESA, Joseph Olmsted (STScI), Dani Player (STScI), Leah Hustak (STScIs), Alyssa Pagan (STScI), Joseph DePasquale (STScI), Greg T. Bacon (STScI), Frank Summers (STScI), Robert L. Hurt (IPAC)CC BY-SA 4.0