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Paper: eta Carinae: physical information from photometry
Volume: 233, P Cygni 2000: 400 Years of Progress
Page: 59
Authors: van Genderen, A. M.; de Groot, M.; Sterken, C.
Abstract: The very first physical information one can get from optical photometry is that eta Car is variable. Figure 1 shows the light curve from 1600 to 2000. Most reseachers agree with the main interpretations of the various features as shown by the light curve. The eruptive phases are called S Dor- (SD-) eruptions as opposed to the S Dor- (SD-) phases, which are responsible for the oscillating light variations (due to slow pulsations) with a time-scale of years (van Genderen 2001). The rising trend after 1935 is called the 'secular rise' and is mainly due to a decrease of circumstellar extinction, i.e. a decrease of self-extinction by the expanding Homunculus. A model for the trend of the decrease fits the time interval 1935-2000 satisfactorily (van Genderen et al. 1994, and see dotted curve in Figure 1 presented here). The optical (and near-IR) photometry of eta Car is hampered by the fact that only integrated photometry of the whole bipolar nebula is possible. However, we have luck: the nebula is mainly a reflection nebula. Thus, in analogy with a Chinese lantern: if the flame flickers, the integrated light flickers as well. Therefore, it is still possible to extract from the integrated photometry, important physical characteristics of the variable star, although heavily veiled by dust and gas. The effect of smearing out by reflections in the homunculus is presumably small, see discussion in van Genderen et al. (1999).
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