Red White & Blue - Patriotic Eta Carinae


  1. Red white & blue - patriotic Eta Carinae
  2. The Independence Day orbiter 

...and should we win the day, the 4th of July will no longer be known as an American holiday, but as the day when the world declared in one voice, "We will not go quietly into the night! We will not vanish without a fight! We're going to live on! We're going to survive!" Today, we celebrate our Independence Day! 
- Independence Day (1996)

Current events

No, we're not under alien attack this 4th of July (movie clip here), but the Universe is indeed taking note of American Independence Day - Hubble just released this amazing image of Eta Carinae detonating in an astounding fireworks show of red, white, and blue! 

Eta Carinae is a double-star system 7,500 light years away that's 5 million times brighter than the Sun

Eta Carinae is one of the most fascinating objects in the cosmos - humanity first observed the double-star system in 1838 when it suddenly emitted a massive burst of light known as the Great Eruption, temporarily becoming the second brightest star in the night sky (behind Sirius) before fading away over the subsequent decade. Its variable luminosity occurs because the two supermassive stars are close to dying, so their gravitational interplay causes them to be extremely unstable. The 1838 "impostor supernova" nearly blew the two stars completely apart, but somehow it survived! 

Approximate diagram of Eta Carinae A and B | 1 AU (astronomical unit) is the avg distance between Earth and the Sun, 93 million miles

Since Hubble launched in 1990, it's kept close tabs on Eta Carinae's modern explosive resurgence. The above image artificially colors nitrogen clouds in red and magnesium debris in blue so that astronomers can carefully detail the dumbbell-shaped layers of ejected material. Enjoy it while it lasts - it won't be long (astronomically speaking) before Eta Carinae goes out in an epic supernova!

This day in space history

Continuing on the Independence Day theme, on July 4, 2016, NASA's Juno probe successfully reached Jupiter! Launched from Cape Canaveral in 2011, it's the second mission of NASA's New Frontiers program, and its goal is to analyze Jupiter's composition, gravity, magnetic field, and core to better understand how the planet formed. It builds off the discoveries of the first Jupiter orbiter, Galileo, which orbited from 1995-2003

Some people celebrate the 4th of July by launching fireworks; others launch a billion dollar spacecraft to Jupiter :)

What I find amazing is that Juno is the first spacecraft to reach the outer solar system using solar panels; by the time you reach Jupiter, the Sun's power is only 3.7% what it is in Earth orbit, so most deep space probes rely on radioisotope thermoelectric generators (nuclear power). But plutonium-238 is REALLY expensive ($11 million / kg), and with recent advances in solar technology, Juno's enormous gallium arsenide solar cells proved more cost efficient 

A compilation of some of Juno's best images to date!

The other thing I love about Juno is its name! In Roman mythology, Jupiter is the king of the gods, and each of Jupiter's major moons is named after his lovers and mistresses (Io, Europa, Metis, etc). So who is Juno? Jupiter's wife!! NASA is sending Jupiter's wife to check in on Jupiter and all his affairs!

"Juno's name comes from Greek and Roman mythology. The god Jupiter drew a veil of clouds around himself to hide his mischief, and his wife, the goddess Juno, was able to peer through the clouds and reveal Jupiter's true nature" - NASA, August 5, 2011

NASA has no chill, haha!


  1. Replies
    1. I think there's some kind of unspoken law that all major solar system bodies have to be named after mythological deities. But it's not limited to Greek/Roman mythology, there are two dwarf planets named Haumea and Makemake after Hawaiian/Polynesian gods