Replying to K. Davidson & R. M. Humphreys Nature 486, (2012).

In our Letter1 reporting the light echoes of η Carinae we analysed the spectral characteristics of η Carinae during the Great Eruption of the mid-1800s, and found the line content to be similar to that of G supergiant stars. This we interpret as evidence that η Carinae’s Great Eruption was not a typical luminous blue variable (LBV) outburst, because spectra similar to those of F and A supergiant stars, earlier and hotter than G-type stars, are observed in LBV eruptions of all kinds, in agreement with theoretical predictions. Davidson & Humphreys2 object that our spectral type and temperature estimate are not sufficiently robust, and that the spectral features are in agreement with their theoretical predictions.

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  1. 1.

    et al. Light echoes reveal an unexpectedly cool η Carinae during its nineteenth-century Great Eruption. Nature 482, 375–378 (2012)

  2. 2.

    & Nature 486, (2012)

  3. 3.

    & Echoes from an old outburst. Nature 482, 317–318 (2012)

  4. 4.

    et al. Mass and kinetic energy of the Homunculus Nebula around η Carinae. Astron. J. 125, 1458–1466 (2003)

  5. 5.

    A blast wave from the 1843 eruption of η Carinae. Nature 455, 201–203 (2008)

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Author information


  1. *Space Telescope Science Institute, 3700 San Martin Drive, Baltimore, Maryland 21218, USA

    • A. Rest
    • , N. R. Walborn
    •  & H. E. Bond
  2. ‡Carnegie Observatories, 813 Santa Barbara Street, Pasadena, California 91101, USA

    • J. L. Prieto
  3. §Department of Astrophysical Sciences, Princeton University, Peyton Hall, Princeton, New Jersey 08544, USA

    • J. L. Prieto
  4. Steward Observatory, University of Arizona, 933 North Cherry Avenue, Tucson, Arizona 85721, USA

    • N. Smith
  5. ¶Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope Network, Goleta, California 93117, USA

    • F. B. Bianco
    •  & D. A. Howell
  6. #Department of Physics, University of California, Santa Barbara, California 93106, USA

    • F. B. Bianco
    •  & D. A. Howell
  7. Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, 60 Garden Street, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138, USA

    • R. Chornock
    • , R. J. Foley
    • , W. Fong
    •  & K. Mandel
  8. **Department of Physics and Astronomy, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, L8S 4M1, Canada

    • D. L. Welch
    •  & B. Sinnott
  9. ††Department of Physics and Astronomy, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, 3400 North Charles Street, Maryland 21218, USA

    • M. E. Huber
  10. ‡‡Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory, National Optical Astronomy Observatory, Colina el Pino S/N, La Serena, Chile

    • R. C. Smith
  11. §§ALMA, KM 121 CH 23, San Pedro de Atacama, II Region, Chile

    • I. Toledo
  12. Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics, Pontifica Universidad Catolica, Avenida Vicuna Mackenna 4860, Santiago 22, Chile

    • D. Minniti
  13. ¶¶Imperial College London, Blackett Laboratory, Prince Consort Road, London SW7 2AZ, UK

    • K. Mandel


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Correspondence to A. Rest.

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