Hubble Space Telescope Takes Close Look at AG Carinae

The new composite images from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope reveal the dual nature of the giant star AG Carinae.

This Hubble image shows a giant star called AG Carinae. The color image was made from separate exposures taken in the visible region of the spectrum with Hubble’s Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 (WFPC2) and Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3). It is based on data obtained through two filters. The color results from assigning different hues to each monochromatic image associated with an individual filter. Image credit: NASA / ESA / Hubble / A. Nota / C. Britt.

Found within the constellation of Carina in the southern sky, AG Carinae lies approximately 20,000 light-years away.

Also known as HD 94910, the star is a few million years old and its expected lifetime is between 5 and 6 million years.

AG Carinae is classified as a Luminous Blue Variable. These rare objects are massive evolved stars that will become Wolf-Rayet stars, a class of stars that are tens of thousands to several million times as luminous as the Sun.

The giant star is waging a tug-of-war between gravity and radiation to avoid self-destruction.

It is surrounded by a spectacular nebula, formed by material ejected by the star during several of its past outbursts.

The nebula is about 5 light-years wide, equal to the distance from here to our nearest star, Alpha Centauri, and is approximately 10,000 years old.

While the nebula looks like a ring, it is in fact a hollow shell rich in gas and dust, the center of which has been cleared by the powerful stellar wind traveling at roughly 200 km/s.

This Hubble image shows the giant star AG Carinae. The color image was made from separate exposures taken in the ultraviolet, visible and near-infrared regions of the spectrum with Hubble’s Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 (WFPC2) and Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3). It is based on data obtained through five filters. The color results from assigning different hues to each monochromatic image associated with an individual filter. Image credit: NASA / ESA / Hubble / A. Nota / C. Britt.

This Hubble image shows the giant star AG Carinae. The color image was made from separate exposures taken in the ultraviolet, visible and near-infrared regions of the spectrum with Hubble’s Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 (WFPC2) and Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3). It is based on data obtained through five filters. The color results from assigning different hues to each monochromatic image associated with an individual filter. Image credit: NASA / ESA / Hubble / A. Nota / C. Britt.

AG Carinae was the target of Hubble’s 31st anniversary image in April 2021.

The new perspective was developed thanks to Hubble’s observations of the star in 2021 and 2014, along with others captured in 1994.

The first image showcases the details of the ionized hydrogen and ionized nitrogen emissions (seen here in red) from the nebula.

In the second image, the blue demonstrates the contrasting appearance of the distribution of the dust that shines of reflected stellar light.

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