The photo that captured the Pillars of creation has become one of the most iconic images in the last two decades. Taken in 1995, the pillars quickly became Hubble’s best known photographic capture that revealed three giant columns of cold gas surrounded by ultraviolet light emanating from a cluster of enormous young stars in the region named Eagle Nebula, or M16.
Now, at the celebration of the telescope’s 25th year of its existence, two breathtaking images of the pillars have been made public: one made in visible light and the other in almost infrared light. The pillars of creation can now be seen in ultra high-definition, in an much wider image that conveys never before seen details and information about their existence.
Although their name may suggest otherwise, the pillars are actually not at all static formations. To the surprise of the scientists, the two sets of photos – first on from 1915, and the present one – present a huge amount of differences.
“I’m impressed by how transitory these structures are. They are actively being ablated away before our very eyes. 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,”
said one of the project’s lead scientists, Paul Scowen. Together with Jeff Hester, the two Arizona State University researchers oversaw Hubble’s activity concerning the Eagle Nebula.
In the image made with the aid of infrared light, the pillars seem but nearly phantom-like threads set against a massive cluster of bright stars. This view is made possible by the infrared that can penetrate clouds of dust and gas that mere light cannot. The multitude of details in this photo makes us witnesses to an extraordinary cosmic event: the birth of new stars. In the upper part of the pillars is surrounded by a brightly bluish light that stands as evidence of strong stellar wind activity, so strong and violent that a portion of the peak of the tallest pillar seems to be flying away.
The Eagle Nebula seems to be extremely alike the nebula from which our Sun originates. And the violent environment observed here is most possibly the same as the birth place of our Sun. Scowen explained that supernovae originate from massive stars that live a short life – about a coulpe of millions of years. So, because the time span is so short, the one way our sun could come into being was in a climate similar to that of Eagle Nebula.
Image Source: Times