The extremely massive (〉 90 Stellar Mass) and luminous (= 5 x 10(exp 6) Stellar Luminosity) star Eta Carinae, with its spectacular bipolar "Homunculus" nebula, comprises one of the most remarkable and intensely observed stellar systems in the Galaxy. However, many of its underlying physical parameters remain unknown. Multiwavelength variations observed to occur every 5.54 years are interpreted as being due to the collision of a massive wind from the primary star with the fast, less dense wind of a hot companion star in a highly elliptical (e approx. 0.9) orbit. Using three-dimensional (3-D) Smoothed Particle Hydrodynamics (SPH) simulations of the binary wind-wind collision, together with radiative transfer codes, we compute synthetic spectral images of [Fe III] emission line structures and compare them to existing Hubble Space Telescope/Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (HST/STIS) observations. We are thus able, for the first time, to tightly constrain the absolute orientation of the binary orbit on the sky. An orbit with an inclination of approx. 40deg, an argument of periapsis omega approx. 255deg, and a projected orbital axis with a position angle of approx. 312deg east of north provides the best fit to the observations, implying that the orbital axis is closely aligned in 3-D space with the Homunculus symmetry axis, and that the companion star orbits clockwise on the sky relative to the primary.
Bulletin de la Societe Royale des Sciences de Liege; Volume 80; 694-698