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The Great Eruption of η Carinae

Nature volume 486, page E1 (21 June 2012) | Download Citation


Arising from A. Rest et al. Nature 482, 375–378 (2012).10.1038/nature10775

During the years 1838–1858, the very massive star η Carinae became the prototype supernova impostor: it released nearly as much light as a supernova explosion and shed an impressive amount of mass, but survived as a star1. In the standard interpretation, mass was driven outward by excess radiation pressure, persisting for several years. From a light-echo spectrum of that event, Rest et al.2 conclude that “other physical mechanisms” are required to explain it, because the gas outflow appears cooler than theoretical expectations. Here we note that (1) theory predicted a substantially lower temperature than they quoted, and (2) their inferred observational value is quite uncertain. Therefore, analyses so far do not reveal any significant contradiction between the observed spectrum and most previous discussions of the Great Eruption and its physics.

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  1. *Minnesota Institute for Astrophysics, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55455, USA

    • Kris Davidson
    •  & Roberta M. Humphreys


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The authors contributed equally.

Competing interests

Declared none.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Kris Davidson.

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