Earlier today the 225th gathering of the American Astronomical Society took place. Fresh findings about Eta Carinae speak about discoveries regarding interactions never-before-seen in 3-D printed models.
In the 19th century Eta Carinae erupted for two times in a row. 10,000 light-years around Earth there is no other stellar system as massive and as luminous as Eta Carinae. Scientists haven’t found a reason for the unpredictable behavior or for colossal explosions that occured in Eta Carinae. Some say that the star system approaches the point of supernova detonation for one of the stars.
The star system is composed of two stars. The brighter and bigger one it’s a star with a mass approximated of 90 times our Sun’s. It shines brighter than our Sun 5 million times, and produces gaseous outflows extremely powerful and violent. These outflows are called stellar winds. The smaller one is a theme for debate among scientists. They don’t seem to share a common opinion about its characteristics. But the stellar wind of the smaller one is not a matter to be contested. Dense and hot gas from the stellar winds completely hide the two stars from view, making it a tough mission, even impossible, to observe their properties directly. But, thanks to its thickness and temperature, Eta Carinae emits X-rays observable with our current technology.
Periastron is the point in which the stars are closest to each other and at this stage the emission of X-rays changes dramatically. The X-ray output brightens more and more until the bigger star and its smaller companion are on the periastron (the event which takes place once in 5 and a half years and when the stars are 225 million kilometers close to one another) and drops just after that point is passed.
Ground-based telescopes and NASA satellites provided data to a study undergoing for 11 years. Research data were gathered and provided a model for a 3-D simulation. The research team that collected these data witnessed three periastron and studied closely the stars behavior. The results told that the winds from the bigger star have a speed of 1.6 million kilometers per hour and are extremely dense. Every millennium a mass equal to the mass of our Sun is blown out by these ferocious winds. The companion star has winds up to 10 million kilometers per hour. The winds of the smaller star carry off 100 times lesser material.
Thomas Madura, a scientist from NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, said that the 3-D printed model from the resulting images of the research revealed complex interaction of stellar winds. In the bigger star’s winds a cavity was carved by the smaller star’s winds. The discovery continued with formations resembling to fingers-like shapes in the zone where there were winds collision. Thomas Madura added “These are features that we didn’t even really know existed”
Image Source: NASA