Image courtesy ESA/NASA
The bulbous lobes of the Homunculus Nebula surround the binary star system known as Eta Carinae in a newly released picture from the Hubble Space Telescope.
Eta Carinae increased in brightness in the 19th century in an event that became known as the Great Eruption. Astronomers now know that the larger star in the system is very massive and highly unstable. The outburst in the 1800s—which released the material that formed the dumbbell-shaped nebula—was likely a precursor to the star’s imminent death in a powerful supernova.