In 1827 Burchell specifically noted Eta Carinae’s unusual brightness at 1st magnitude, and was the first to suspect that it varied in brightness. John Herschel made a detailed series of accurate measurements in the 1830s showing that Eta Carinae consistently shone around magnitude 1.4 until November 1837. On the evening of December 16, 1837, Herschel was astonished to see that it had brightened to slightly outshine Rigel. This event marked the beginning of a roughly 18-year period known as the Great Eruption.
Eta Carinae is probably the greatest treasure of the southern sky. It is also the first object on which you will direct your telescopes if you want to admire its beauty. Moreover, to see the surrounding nebula, you do not really need any equipment. Under good conditions, it is visible to the naked eye.
The star located 7,700 light-years from Earth is actually a stellar system composed of at least two components. Their mutually reinforced glow is millions of times brighter than our Sun and is primarily responsible for lighting up the surrounding matter. It is finally one of the most beautiful nebulas you can observe. It’s called Carina. Like other objects of this type, it is an active star-forming region.
It is difficult to find a more diverse object to observe in the sky. You will find reflection, emission, dark, dust, and other nebulae in it. All this can be seen on my photograph taken using the multi-spectral technique (gathering light emitted by ionized gases: oxygen, hydrogen and sulfur).
This picture cost me a lot. 12 thousand kilometers and 72 hours of travel (South Africa). 3 nights struggle to collect photons. 15 hours of raw material processing. The result is the photo which I undoubtedly point to as the groundbreaking and best astrophotograph of my decade-long career. In this field, achieving the level of the image we dreamed up is extremely difficult. This time when I look at the picture I have the impression it is exactly what I wanted to do.
When working with narrowband filters, then trying to balance them in a graphical application, there is this magical moment when the monochrome picture blossoms with a color gamut. This is the moment in which the author himself cannot admire enough the scale of the beauty of cosmic creation. Because we do not the ones who create it. Modestly we only record and interpret what we see.
Author: Adam Jesionkiewicz