A bright photogenic patch of the southern Milky Way holds one of the most enigmatic and exotic stars known.
Distance: 7500 Light Years
Eta Carinae is the centerpiece and ionizing star of the great HII region, the Eta Carinae Nebula. The nebula itself spans some 260 light years across, about 7 times the size of the Orion Nebula. Massive is an understatement as the great star weighs in at some 100 to 150 solar masses and shines with the light output of 5 million suns.
As one of the most massive stars known, Eta Carinae pushes the theoretical limits on energy output of stars and has attracted much interest among astronomers trying to understand the physics of supermassive stars.
The young supergiant star (only 2 to 3 million years old) pumps out as much energy in 6 seconds as our sun does in an entire year. Its prodigious stellar wind blows off the equivalent mass of Jupiter each year, exceeding our suns yearly rate of mass loss a 100 billion fold.
Image: Martin Matias Menrath Summary: Robert Gendler