Eta Carinae, the most luminous and massive stellar system within 10,000 light-years, is best known for an enormous eruption seen in mid-19th century that hurled at least 10 times the sun’s mass into space.
Now a study using archival data from NASA’s Spitzer and Hubble space telescopes has found five objects with similar properties in other galaxies for the first time.
Lead scientist Rubab Khan said that the most massive stars are always rare, but they have tremendous impact on the chemical and physical evolution of their host galaxy.
Catching rare stars during the short-lived aftermath of a major outburst approaches needle-and-haystack levels of difficulty, and nothing matching Eta Carinae had been found prior to Khan’s study.
Dust forms in gas ejected by a massive star. This dust dims the star’s ultraviolet and visible light, but it absorbs and reradiates this energy as heat at longer mid-infrared wavelengths.
This study has been published in Astrophysical Journal Letters.