2003 eta Carinae Observing


Eta Car ImageEta Carinae is one of the most interesting stars in the sky. According to predictions, 2003 could be a very exciting year for observing Eta Car. Below is a list of resources and information that can help you with your observations.

Eta Car (type S Doradus) is a Luminous Blue Variable that historically has shown two types of irregular eruptions - a typical S Doradus-type eruption with a brightening of 1-2 magnitudes in visual wavelength and a duration of years, and a "giant eruption" that shows a significant increase in total luminosity (to that rivaling a supernova) and mass ejection of a solar mass or more. Eta Car has experienced several of these giant eruptions, the most recent being in the 1840's when the star reached magnitude -1 and much of the material we see as the surrounding Homunculus nebula was ejected (Humphreys et al., Publ. ASP, 111,1124 (1999)).

The 5.52-year x-ray eclipse cycle believed to exist in the extremely complex eta Car is expected to produce an x-ray eclipse in late May or mid-July (depending on the model) of 2003. Optical brightening should most probably follow this eclipse, as may be seen in the 1997-2000 visual observations in the AAVSO International Database. (below)


Designation Name Type Period Range Spectrum Comments Available Charts
1041-59 ETA CAR SD     -0.8 - 7.9 V   PEC(E)    
 A (GIF)  A (PS)  B (GIF)  B (PS)  E (GIF)  E (PS)

These chart links are obsolete (11/2013); create charts using VSP at http://www.aavso.org/vsp

Light curves

Full AAVSO Light Curve for Eta Car (July 24, 1943 - May 20, 2003) eta car AAVSO light curve

Click here to customize this light curve

AAVSO Light Curve for Eta Car - Last 10 Years eta car AAVSO 10-year light curve

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Historical Observations of Eta Car Eta Car light curve since 1600

Above is from Elias and Francis Loomis on Variable Stars, 1866-69 by Dorrit Hoffleit, Journal of the AAVSO, Vol. 13, No. 2. p 67-77. 1984. Click here for full ADS entry and scanned article.

Astronomy Magazine 150+ year light curve of Eta Car eta car AAVSO light curve

Used with permission from Astronomy Magazine. Copyright 2000 Astronomy magazine.

Observer Images of Eta Car

Cacella - Eta Car Image

Monard - Eta Car Image

Unfiltered CCD Image by Berto Monard (MLF) at Bronberg Observatory, May 16, 2003, 17:11 UT.