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Eta Carinae is a massive star system in the southern hemisphere. It is possibly the best studied star system in the sky, attracting the attention of scientists and sky watchers for its fitful dramatic magnitude changes. It even has a place in the tribal oral tales of the aboriginal tribes (Hamacher, D.W. & Frew, D.J. (2010) An Aboriginal Australian record of the Great Eruption of Eta CarinaeJournal of Astronomical History & Heritage, Vol. 13(3), pp. 220-234.). And yet we had it misunderstood by scientists all this time.
Eta Carinae has been known to suffer magnitude variations since the 1600s, but In the mid 1800s it went through a 20 year long, spectacular eruption making it the brightest star in the sky for a while. Now we get to see this eruption again via light echoes! Some of the light from the explosion, originally traveling in a direction away from us, bounced off of a dust sheet and is just now reaching us 170 years later.
For more details see the UCSB press release.
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