Eta Carinae: the dissipating occulter is an extended structure





Citation of Original Publication


This item is likely protected under Title 17 of the U.S. Copyright Law. Unless on a Creative Commons license, for uses protected by Copyright Law, contact the copyright holder or the author.



Previous STIS long-slit observations of Eta Carinae identified numerous absorption features in both the stellar spectrum, and in the adjacent nebular spectra, along our line-of-sight. The absorption features became temporarily stronger when the ionizing FUV radiation field was reduced by the periastron passage of the secondary star. Subsequently, dissipation of a dusty structure in our LOS has led to a long-term increase in the apparent magnitude of \ec, an increase in the ionizing UV radiation, and the disappearance of absorptions from multiple velocity-separated shells extending across the foreground Homunculus lobe. We use HST/STIS spectro-images, coupled with published infrared and radio observations, to locate this intervening dusty structure. Velocity and spatial information indicate the occulter is ~1000 au in front of Eta Carinae. The Homunculus is a transient structure composed of dusty, partially-ionized ejecta that eventually will disappear due to the relentless rain of ionizing radiation and wind from the current binary system along with dissipation and mixing with the ISM. This evolving complex continues to provide an astrophysical laboratory that changes on human timescales.