Recently, Hubble revisited the famous “Pillars of Creation,” providing astronomers with a sharper and bigger view of the iconic star forming region that also send a scary image as “pillars of destruction” too.
Of so many pictures taken by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, one snapshot stands out from the rest and it is the iconic view of the so-called “Pillars of Creation.”
The photo, taken in 1995, revealed details of three giant columns of cold gas bathed in the scorching ultraviolet light from a cluster of young, massive stars in a small region of the Eagle Nebula, or M16.
On its upcoming 25th anniversary in April, Hubble has revisited the famous pillars, providing astronomers with a sharper and wider view. Although the original image was dubbed the Pillars of Creation, the new image hints that they are also “pillars of destruction.”
Paul Scowen of Arizona State University in Tempe, said:”The ghostly bluish haze around the dense edges of the pillars is material getting heated up and evaporating away into space. We have caught these pillars at a very unique and short-lived moment in their evolution.”
Scowen and astronomer Jeff Hester, formerly of Arizona State University, led the original Hubble observations of the Eagle Nebula and the 1995 images were taken in visible light.
The new image includes near-infrared light as well, which transforms the pillars into eerie, wispy silhouettes seen against a background of myriad stars as the infrared light penetrates much of the gas and dust, except the densest regions of the pillars. Newborn stars can be seen hidden away inside the pillars.
The infrared image shows that the very ends of the pillars are dense knots of dust and gas. They shadow the gas below them, keeping the gas cool and creating the long, column-like structures. The material in between the pillars has long since been evaporated away by the ionizing radiation from the central star cluster located above the pillars.
At the top edge of the left-hand pillar, a gaseous fragment has been heated up and is flying away from the structure, underscoring the violent nature of star-forming regions. “These pillars represent a very dynamic, active process,” Scowen said.
By comparing the 1995 and 2014 pictures, astronomers have noticed a lengthening of a narrow jet-like feature that may have been ejected from a newly forming star. The jet looks like a stream of water from a garden hose.
Over the intervening 19 years, this jet has stretched farther into space, across an additional 60 billion miles, at an estimated speed of about 450,000 miles per hour.
Our sun probably formed in a similar turbulent star-forming region as is seen in the Eagle Nebula now.