AAS Meeting #194 - Chicago, Illinois, May/June 1999
Session 74. Eta Carinae
Display, Wednesday, June 2, 1999, 10:00am-6:30pm, Southeast Exhibit Hall

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[74.01] The Three-dimensional Structure of the Eta Carinae Nebula

A. Nota, N. Panagia (STScI/ESA), L. Bergeron, M. Clampin (STScI), A. Pasquali (ESO), R.E Schulte-Ladbeck (U. Pittsburgh)

The visible light we receive from the \eta Carinae Homunculus is due to reflection of light from the central star and intrinsic emission from the ionized gas. Disentangling the contributions of the various components and properly characterizing the gas/dust interaction in this environment has been an ongoing challenge. We present new high resolution IR images of the Homunculus, taken with the HST/NICMOS. These observations, obtained in broad band filters (J, H, K) and selected emission lines (Br\gamma, P\alpha, [FeII], H2), have been combined with optical images (HST/WFPC2 - H\alpha, H\beta, V) and have allowed us to trace, independently, the spatial distribution of the dust, the ionized gas and the neutral material in the \eta Carinae nebula. In a nebula where gas and dust are mixed, this study cannot be done with optical images alone. For example, since the dust obscuration at Br\gamma is rather small and the contribution from scattered light is quite negligible, the NICMOS images provide a direct view of the projected distribution of the gas. By combining optical and IR imaging in selected lines it has been possible, for the first time, to disentangle geometry and optical depth effects. We also present preliminary results for dust absorption and scattering models, obtained by applying the method outlined in Natta and Panagia (1984), to which we have added the foreground and internal absorption by dust and the effects of scattering of nebular and stellar radiation.

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