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February 7, 2011

Eta Carinae Star System

The Eta Carinae star system, as imaged by the Gemini South Telescope in Chile, with the Near Infrared Coronagraphic Imager (NICI) using adaptive optics to reduce blurring by turbulence in the Earth's atmosphere. In this image, the bipolar lobes of the Homunculus Nebula are visible with the never-before imaged Little Homunculus Nebula, visible as a faint, blue glow mostly in the lower lobe. The Butterfly Nebula is visible as the yellowish glow with dark filamentary structure close to and mostly below-left of the central star system. The central star system appears as a dark spot due to the coronagraphic blocking (occulting) disk used to eliminate the star's bright glare.

This image is a color composite using three infrared filters: [Fe II] (1.644 micron)--blue layer; H2 2-1 S(1) (2.2465 micron)--green layer; and Br(gamma) (2.1686 micron)--red layer. The field of view for the image is 16.0 x 15.4 arcseconds and is oriented with north up and east to the left.

To learn more about this discovery, see the Gemini news story "Revealing the Explosive Heart of Eta Carinae." (Date of Image: 2009)

Credit: J.C. Martin et. al., Gemini Observatory/AURA

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