Credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Conceptual Image La
Between 1838 and 1845, eta Carinae underwent a period of unusual variability during which it briefly outshone Canopus, normally the second-brightest star. As a part of this event, which astronomers call the Great Eruption, a gaseous shell containing at least 10 and perhaps as much as 40 times the sun's mass was shot into space. This material forms a twin-lobed dust-filled cloud known as the Homunculus Nebula, which is now about a light-year long and continues to expand at more than 1.3 million mph (2.1 million km/h).
Once the researchers had developed their Homunculus model, they took things one step further. They converted it to a format that can be used by 3D printers and made the file available along with the published paper.
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
+1 301 286 4453
Dr Keith Smith
Royal Astronomical Society
+44 (0)20 7734 4582
Prof. Wolfgang Steffen
National Autonomous University of Mexico
Please contact Francis Reddy (details above) in the first instance.
This research has been published in Steffen W. el al., 2014, "The three-dimensional structure of the Eta Carinae Homunculus", Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, vol. 442, p. 3316-3328, published by Oxford University Press.
Notes for editors