Photograph showing the emision nebula, Eta Carina (formerly Eta Argus) taken using the astrographic telescope at the Royal Observatory, Cape of Good Hope, South Africa. Located at the centre of this intricate nebula is a masive but unstable star that one day will explode spectacularly. Made around 1909 and exposed for 12 hours, the image is one of a series taken as part of the Carte du Ciel, project to map the heavens in unprecedented detail. Started in1887, the mammoth undertaking was not completed until the middle years of the twentieth century. Today it forms a valuable resource for comparison with present-day high precision surveys of the position of stars using spacecraft.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library