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Eta Carinae, one the galaxy's biggest stars, and the nebula formed by its enigmatic, 19th century Great Eruption. Called light echoes, these ancient reverberations bear the original signatures written into light by the explosion. Other echoes are being used to solve the mystery of Eta Carinae, one of the weirdest and most tempestuous binary star systems in the galaxy. Located 7,500 light-years away, Eta Carinae lives in the Carina nebula, in the southern sky. Pulses of light produced by the stellar eruptions wafted off into space, passing through the burgeoning clouds of dust and gas that were gathering around the spasming star. Light curves recorded by Herschel and others at the time showed peaks in 1837, 1843, and 1845.
For years, astronomers considered Eta Carinae the prototype for a class of explosions known as “supernova impostors.” Rather than destroying the star, as any self-respecting supernova would, these impostor novae shine as brightly as their counterparts yet leave their stars intact. But light echoes from Eta Carinae’s 19th-century outbursts are challenging its status as the impostor nova poster child.
The echoes reveal that the temperature of Eta Carinae’s Great Eruption was much cooler than expected – about 5,000 Kelvin, or 2,000 degrees cooler than anticipated.
Most recently, in a paper uploaded to the arXiv on April 15, Rest and his colleagues report the presence of nitrogen-rich molecules in the light echoes – cyanide, in fact, which contains a carbon and a nitrogen atom.
Over time, Rest says, the characteristics of the light echoes are changing, indicating the expulsion of material and dense amounts of dust. Eta Carinae isn’t the only complex stellar object whose secrets hide in these aging glimmers. Rest and his colleagues used spectral lines to classify one of the remnants, in the Large Magellanic Cloud, as not only the result of a type Ia supernova (produced by an exploding white dwarf star), but a subtype of that class of explosion. Teams have also looked to light echoes for information about Tycho’s supernova (a normal type 1a), which exploded in 1572, and for Cassiopeia A, a type IIb core-collapse supernova that exploded in 1680 and left a beautiful remnant in the Milky Way.
Light echoes can be fleeting and illusive, as demonstrated by the series of images below from another famous nova, known as V838 Monocerotis (watch a video here). When wounded, poisonous nightshade can be sweet, a revelation that has scientists reconsidering the evolution of nectar.
Top picks You can sign up for The Ed’s Up—a weekly newsletter of my writing plus some of the best stuff from around the Internet. Nadia Drake is a science journalist who grew up thinking about cosmic questions and staring at Saturn through giant telescopes. Her work has also appeared in Science News, Nature, New Scientist, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and WIRED. DisclaimerThe views expressed are those of the writer and are not necessarily those of the National Geographic Society. Usamos cookies en todos nuestros sitios webs para mejorar tu experiencia durante tu navegacion asi como para obtener datos estadisticos. Las cookies son pequenos archivos de texto que se almacenan en su ordenador cuando usted visita ciertos sitios web.

Death of an early star One of the first stars in the universe explodes, bursting through its halo of invisible dark matter and seeding space with carbon, oxygen, and other elements. Detecting the (almost) undetectable In a Stanford University clean room, research assistant John Mark Kreikebaum inspects silicon disks that might one day register the subtle energy signal of dark matter particles—which are believed to be ubiquitous but have yet to be observed. Simulation and reconstruction: Steffen Hess and Francisco-Shu Kitaura, Leibniz Institutefor Astrophysics Potsdam.
The invisible scaffolding of space We can’t see dark matter, but its gravity sculpts what we do see from our vantage point inside the Milky Way galaxy. Message from the Milky Way A NASA telescope orbiting Earth has detected unusually intense gamma rays coming from the center of our galaxy. A view from Chileof cosmic expansionThe Dark Energy Survey will map an eighth of the sky at high resolution. But instead of ricocheting off damp cavern walls, light traveling through the universe bounces off soft, dusty clouds. On Earth, most of the light we’d see from one of these exploding stars would have come directly here. In some echoes, astronomers have deciphered details that reveal which kinds of stars exploded in the 16th and 17th centuries – information that would otherwise be lost to the cosmos, since telescopes of the time didn’t have the spectrometers needed to read the chemical inscriptions in the light.
Circling that crazy huge star is a giant companion, but it wasn’t until 1996 that a Brazilian astronomer named Augusto Damineli realized it was there. What conclusions are we to draw as to the comfort or habitability of a system depending for its supply of light and heat on so uncertain a source?” Herschel would write in 1847.
That relatively frigid temperature suggests the mechanism of the eruption is nothing like what scientists had surmised; instead of being the result of an energetic stellar wind, the explosion could have been triggered by a blast from the star’s surface or by an interaction with its binary companion. But Eta Carinae’s massive size and repeated outbursts portend the death of the system, which promises to be a spectacular cataclysm – a hypernova, or superdupernova – well worth the price of a ticket to the southern hemisphere to check it out when it does blow.
Light from supernovas that shined in Earth’s skies centuries ago is also bouncing off dust clouds. Known as an overluminous type Ia, the explosion that produced remnant SNR 0509-67.5 likely resulted from the merger of two white dwarfs. Other light echoes have been identified in the Large Magellanic Cloud that correspond to explosions that aren’t as well known, as well as the echoes from supernova 1987a, which form concentric rings around the explosion site. What looks like an expanding cloud is actually the light from the explosion traveling outward and being reflected by the already existing cloud’s shells and cavities.
This is her space to talk about space -- from other worlds to exploding stars to the fabric of the universe. Phenomena is hosted by National Geographic magazine, which invites you to join the conversation. Puede eliminar las cookies que ya estan almacenadas en su ordenador, pero pueden impedir el uso de partes de nuestro sitio web. This supercomputer simulation, which looks at our cosmic neighborhood from the outside, is a realistic, data-driven reconstruction of the web of dark matter that guided galaxies to their present positions.
The gamma rays are represented by the patch of bright colors superimposed on this picture of the Milky Way.

The Dark Energy Survey’s 570-megapixel camera, mounted on a telescope in Chile, is designed to image 300 million galaxies in five years. For a turn, Eta Carinae became the second-brightest star in the sky; astronomer John Herschel (William’s son), observed the first brightening in late 1837 from South Africa, and kept track of the flare-up.
It lost more than 10 solar masses of material, and was shrouded by a double-lobed, organic-looking structure called the Homunculus Nebula – the cosmic consequence of the giant star’s spectacular tantrums, and the chaotic shroud that hid its companion until recently. Since 2011, a team of astronomers has been monitoring and measuring these light echoes, the first of which was accidentally captured in an image from 2003. The shape of the light curve from the echoes fit the shape of the historical light curve, which rose over a few hundred days, plateaued, and then dropped. These fading echoes are like time capsules that preserve information about the temperature and chemical spectrum of the original explosion; by reading the clues inscribed into the echoes, astronomers have been able to identify exactly what kind of stellar explosion produced long burnt-out remnants.
Where huge dark tendrils cross, bright galaxies cluster; the Virgo cluster alone includes thousands. Peering out eight billion light-years, it could see how fast the cosmos was expanding billions of years ago—when its acceleration by dark energy is thought to have begun.
The only trouble is, the team isn’t seeing the next peak in the eruption, which happened in 1845.
If the geometry is right, some of the light zooming away from Earth might run into a cloud and end up being redirected toward us – kind of like a billiard ball bouncing off the cushion and rolling cleanly into the pocket.
Ademas, los 13 episodios se convirtieron en la sexta opcion el pago en su franja de competencia y se convirtio en el lider absoluto del genero factual. Because it took a more circuitous route through the cosmos, this rerouted light arrives at Earth after the light from the original explosion. He thinks they could be seeing echoes from the earlier, 1837 outburst that Herschel noticed, or perhaps the reverberations from a previous explosion that went unnoticed.
Often, it’s delayed by centuries, arriving long after the supernova’s embers have been extinguished.
Durante los tres meses que ha durado la emision de “Cosmos”, los fans de National Geographic Channel en Facebook han crecido un 24,62% y los seguidores en Twitter han aumentado un 31,83%.“Cosmos” ha sido todo un fenomeno para NGCI estableciendo un nuevo hito en la television 30 anos despues de que se estrenara la serie original. La Sociedad de Criticos de EEUU eligio a “Cosmos” como la Mejor Serie Reality y tambien destaco el trabajo de Neil deGrasse Tyson como Mejor Presentador. Como la serie original, la nueva “Cosmos” reinventa la narracion cientifica para revelar la grandeza del universo, y moderniza algunos elementos de la serie original como el calendario cosmico y la nave de la imaginacion. Druyan, MacFarlane, el presidente de Cosmos Studios, Mitchell Cannold y Brannon Braga (“Star Trek”, “24”) son los productores ejecutivos; y Jason Clark (“Ted”, “42”, “A Million Ways to Die in the West”) es uno de los productores.

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