Eta Carinae is an interesting and somewhat rare phenomenon - it's a massive stellar system that had a massive eruption in the mid-19th century.
"The most massive stars are always rare, but they have tremendous impact on the chemical and physical evolution of their host galaxy," said lead scientist Rubab Khan, a postdoctoral researcher at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. These stars produce and distribute large amounts of the chemical elements vital to life and eventually explode as supernovae.
Since stars like this are rare, scientists are always looking for more - and they may have identified some possible candidates of stars similar to Eta Car in the nearby spiral galaxy M83.
It turns out that our Mid Infrared Instrument (MIRI) will be an ideal tool for exploring these objects. The MIRI has 10 times the angular resolution of instruments aboard Spitzer and is most sensitive at the wavelengths where Eta "twins" shine brightest.
"Combined with Webb's larger primary mirror, MIRI will enable astronomers to better study these rare stellar laboratories and to find additional sources in this fascinating phase of stellar evolution," said Sonneborn, NASA's project scientist for Webb telescope operations.
Read the full story: http://go.nasa.gov/1PNFz4B
Image Credits: NASA, ESA, the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA) and R. Khan (GSFC and ORAU)