A Berkeley postdoc student recently published a theory on why the star—affectionately known by some as the Dread Lord Eta Carinae, Star-King of the Universe—was able to survive an explosion that cost it an amount of mass equal to ten times that of the sun.

At the heart of the theory is the idea that a star can undergo small explosions before finally dying, much like how a mob boss or cruel dictator in real life undergoes small explosions before finally dying.

The previous theory was that Eta Carinae’s loss of mass was caused by stellar winds pushing off layers of gas on the Dread Lord, but the velocity of the outer layers was too fast for this explanation to make much sense.

If the theory is correct, many stars may show signs of being near death by small(er) explosions that lead up to the final bang.

But don’t worry if you thought the same fate that belongs to the Star-King will happen in our own solar system: Supernovae only occur in stars 20 times the mass of our sun or more.

But like all things Popperian, the jury is still out on the matter—astronomers are on the lookout for similar phenomena for possible falsification. It’s science!

Image Source: Ethan Hein under Creative Commons
Theory Links Supernovae To Smaller Set of Outbursts [Daily Cal]



Comments:
adfadsf said:
Sep 18, 2008 at 10:43 pm

that picture is pretty.