Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Homunculus Nebula

Perhaps the strangest object in the night sky, the "Homunculus", contains the giant star Eta Carinae. This is a 'rough' sketch made with the 25" Mike Kerr Telescope at ASNSW's dark sky site, Wiruna. This is the raw sketch - though I have erased some notes etc. Key points of interest are the billows of cumulus-like gas at the right-lobe, and the central 'jet' of the left-lobe The latter has a dimmer cloud of ejecta. The right-lobe showed distinct gaps in places - and an equatorial 'jet' is seen below the star. A second 'jet' was suspected above the star. Magnification was 350. Many thanks to Chris Ross for pointing the huge 'scope at the target, I look forward to a longer session with, maybe, steadier 'seeing'. The prime spectrum of Eta Car clearly showed the hydrogen-alpha and beta lines in emission! I suspect it's the only object to do so with amateur telescopes.
     For complex reasons the bright emission points in this spectrum will soon disappear (~2014) when an unseen WR companion to Eta Car reaches periastron. "Watch this space" if, like us on the night, you have a diffraction grating in front of the 'scope's eyepiece; a rare event in practical astrophysics.

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