Carina kərē´nə [key] [Lat.,=the keel], southern constellation, representing the keel of the ancient constellation Argo Navis, or Ship of the Argonauts. Carina contains Canopus, the second brightest star in the sky. It also contains the False Cross, a combination of four stars very similar to the Southern Cross (see Crux); however, the long axis of the False Cross does not point toward the south celestial pole. In the 1840s a nova associated with η Carinae, a binary star consisting of a massive star with at least 90 times the mass of the sun (and perhaps more than 120 times the mass) and a companion with about 30 times the sun's mass, was observed in Carina. The nova made η Carinae the second brightest star in the sky for a time, and produced the Homunculus Nebula. The star also lies within the much larger Eta Carinae Nebula, one of the largest diffuse nebulae. Carina reaches its highest point in the evening sky in March.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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