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Installation: Paint, Acrylic on Plastic, Sound, Other.
Yurii Yermolenko, 7500 Light-Years, (ultraviolet lighting), 2019, (GOLDILOCKS ZONE project), fluorescent acrylic on vinyl, 17.5x17.5 cm.
The double star system Eta Carinae's expanding gases glowing in red, white, and blue.
Imagine slow-motion fireworks that started exploding nearly two centuries ago and haven't stopped since then. This is how you might describe this double star system located 7500 light-years away in the constellation Carina (The Ship's Keel). In 1838 Eta Carinae underwent a cataclysmic outburst called the Great Eruption, quickly escalating to become in 1844 the second brightest star in the sky by April of that year.
Violent mass ejections are not uncommon in Eta Carinae's history; the system has been blighted by chaotic eruptions, often blasting parts of itself into space But the Great Eruption was particularly dramatic. The larger of the two stars is a massive, unstable star nearing the end of its life, and what astronomers witnessed over a century and a half ago was, in fact, a stellar near-death experience.
The resulting surge of light was outshone only by Sirius, which is almost one thousand times closer to Earth, and for a time made Eta Carinae an important navigation star for mariners in the southern seas. This close call stopped just short of destroying Eta Carinae, and the light intensity gradually subsided. Researchers studying the star today can still see the signature of the Great Eruption on its surroundings; the huge dumbbell shape is formed of the dust and gas and other filaments that were hurled into space in the expulsion. These hot glowing clouds are known as the Homunculus Nebula, warm magnesium gas glowing in ultraviolet light.
Scientists have long known that the outer material thrown off in the 1840s eruption has been heated by shock waves generated when it crashed into material previously ejected from the star. A whole new luminous magnesium structure was found in the space between the dusty bipolar bubbles and the outer shock-heated nitrogen-rich filaments. The fast and energetic ejection of material that may have been expelled by the star shortly before the expulsion of the rest of the nebula.
The streaks visible in the blue region outside the lower-left bubble. These streaks appear where the star's light rays poke through the dust clumps scattered along the bubble's surface. Wherever the ultraviolet light strikes the dense dust, it leaves a long thin shadow that extends beyond the lobe into the surrounding gas.
This technique of searching in ultraviolet light for warm gas could be used to study other stars and gaseous nebulae, the researchers say.
This type of ultraviolet magnesium emission may also expose previously hidden gas in other types of objects that eject material, such as protostars or other dying stars.
Eta Carinae, which may once have weighed as much as 150 Suns, started out as a triple system, and the 1840s mass ejection was triggered when the primary star devoured one of its companions, rocketing more than ten times the mass of our Sun into space. While the exact circumstances of that show-stopping burst of light remain a mystery for now, astronomers are more certain of how this cosmic light show will conclude. Eta Carinae's fireworks display is fated to reach its finale when it explodes as a supernova, greatly surpassing even its last powerful outburst. This may already have happened, but the tsunami of light from such a blinding blast would take 7500 years to reach Earth.
Artist featured by Saatchi Art in a collection