Eta Carinae

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Eta Carinae (η Carinae or η Car) is a stellar system in the constellation Carina, about 7,500 to 8,000 light-years from the Sun. The system contains at least two stars, one of which is a Wolf-Rayet star. Its combined luminosity is about four million times that of the Sun and has an estimated system mass in excess of 100 solar masses.[6] It is not visible north of latitude 30°N and is circumpolar south of latitude 30°S. Because of its mass and the stage of life, it is expected to explode in a supernova in the astronomically near future.

Eta Carinae has the traditional names Tseen She (from the Chinese 天社 [Mandarin: tiānshè] "Heaven's altar") and Foramen.[7]

In Chinese, 海山 (Hǎi Shān), meaning Sea and Mountain, refers to an asterism consisting of η Carinae, s Carinae, λ Centauri and λ Muscae .[8] Consequently, η Carinae itself is known as 海山二 (Hǎi Shān èr, English: the Second Star of Sea and Mountain.)[9]



This stellar system is currently one of the most massive that can be studied in great detail. Until recently, Eta Carinae was thought to be the most massive single star, but in 2005 it was realised to be a binary system.[10] The most massive star in the Eta Carinae multiple star system has more than 100 times the mass of the Sun. Other known massive stars are more luminous and more massive.

Stars in the mass class of Eta Carinae, with more than 100 times the mass of the Sun, produce more than a million times as much light as the Sun. They are quite rare — only a few dozen in a galaxy as big as the Milky Way. They are assumed to approach (or potentially exceed) the Eddington limit, i.e., the outward pressure of their radiation is almost strong enough to counteract gravity. Stars that are more than 120 solar masses exceed the theoretical Eddington limit, and their gravity is barely strong enough to hold in their radiation and gas.

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