Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day we feature a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

January 11, 1996

Lasers in Eta Carinae
Credit: NASA, J. Gitlin (StScI)

Explanation: Have you heard about the great LASER light show in the sky? Well, nobody had until it was announced just yesterday by a team led by K. Davidson (U. Michigan) and S. Johansson (U. Lund). The research team discovered that the unusually variable star Eta Carinae emits ultraviolet light of such a specific colour it is most probably LASER light! The artist's conception shown above depicts a possible model for the Hubble Space Telescope observations. In this model, Eta Carinae emits many LASER beams from its surrounding cloud of energized gas. Infrared LASERS and microwave MASERS are extremely rare astrophysical phenomena, but this ultraviolet LASER is the first of its kind to be discovered.

Tomorrow's picture: Mare Orientale

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Authors & editors: Robert Nemiroff (MTU) & Jerry Bonnell (USRA)
NASA Technical Rep.: Jay Norris. Specific rights apply.
A service of: LHEA at NASA/ GSFC
&: Michigan Tech. U.