The explosive clouds of the star Car AG

Image Credit: NASA, ESA, STScI; Processing: Judy Schmidt; Text: Anders Nyholm
What created these unusual clouds? At the center of this 2021 Hubble image is AG Carinae, a supergiant star located about 20,000 light-years away in the southern constellation Carina. The power emitted by the star is more than a million times that of the Sun, which makes AG Carinae one of the most luminous stars in our galaxy, the Milky Way. AG Carinae and its neighbor Eta Carinae belong to the rare Luminous Blue Variable (LBV) class of stars, known for their rare but violent eruptions. The nebula surrounding AG Car is interpreted as a remnant of one or more of these outbursts. This nebula is 5 light-years across, is estimated to contain around 10 solar masses of gas, and is at least 10,000 years old. This Hubble image, taken to commemorate the 31st anniversary of the Hubble launch, is the first to capture the entire nebula, offering a new perspective on its structure and dust content. LBVs represent a late and short stage in the lives of some supergiant stars, but explaining their unease remains a challenge to humanity’s understanding of how massive stars work.