Nearly 30 years ago, the Pillars of Creation stunned the world of astronomy when they were captured by NASA’s famous Hubble Space Telescope.
Now a new generation can enjoy a new take on the haunting scene after the US space agency’s James Webb $10billion (£7.4billion) Super Space Telescope imaged the same tendrils of gas and dust in the shape of fingers.
Resembling a ghostly hand, the Pillars of Creation are part of the Eagle Nebula – located 6,500 light-years from Earth – and are known to be a source of star formation.
This week, NASA and the European Space Agency revealed another look at Webb’s Sharp Eye Pillars.
Magnificent: Nearly 30 years ago, the Pillars of Creation stunned the world of astronomy when they were captured by NASA’s famous Hubble Space Telescope. Now a new generation can enjoy a new take on the haunting scene after the US space agency’s James Webb $10billion (£7.4billion) Super Space Telescope imaged the same tendrils of gas and dust in the shape of fingers (photo)
The first image of the Pillars of Creation was taken by Hubble in 1995. It provided the first evidence that stars could be born in the Pillars.
WHAT ARE THE PILLARS OF CREATION?
They are one of the most iconic space features ever filmed.
The Pillars of Creation were first captured by NASA’s Hubble Telescope in 1995, then re-imagined in 2014.
Now, nearly 30 years after our first sight of the haunting formation, it has been photographed again by NASA’s new James Webb Super Space Telescope.
The Pillars of Creation, located 6,500 light-years from Earth in the constellation Serpens, are part of the Eagle Nebula.
They are known to be an important source of star formation.
Gas and dust in the claw-like tendrils lead to the birth of stars, many of which are very young and some that have now been photographed are only a few 100,000 years old.
In the 1995 Hubble image, the colors blue represent oxygen, red sulfur, and green nitrogen and hydrogen.
The pillars are bathed in searing ultraviolet light from a cluster of young stars just outside the frame.
The winds from these stars are slowly eroding the towers of gas and dust.
The last image was taken in mid-infrared light, which blocks the brightness of stars and therefore only captures circulating gas and dust. This provided a new way of experiencing and understanding the amazing training.
Webb has instruments that see in different wavelengths of infrared.
In October, experts released an image of the pillars of the near-infrared camera (NIRCam) creation, before following it up with an image of its mid-infrared instrument (MIRI).
They’ve now stitched the images together to produce a haunting image that showcases the best of both views, showcasing glowing dust edges where young stars are beginning to form.
NIRCam reveals newly formed stars in orange outside the pillars, while MRI shows the layers of dust in the formation.
“That’s one of the reasons the region is teeming with stars — dust is a major ingredient in star formation,” NASA said.
The glowing red fingertip on the second pillar suggests active star formation, but the stars are just babies – NASA estimates they are only some 100,000 years old.
They take millions of years to fully form.
“By combining images of the iconic Pillars of Creation from two cameras aboard NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, the universe was framed in its infrared glory,” the Webb team wrote.
They said it “ignited this star-forming region with new detail.”
When nodes of gas and dust of sufficient mass form in the pillars, they begin to collapse under their own gravitational pull, slowly heat up, and eventually form new stars.
“The newly formed stars are particularly apparent at the edges of the two upper pillars – they practically burst onto the scene,” Team Webb said.
“Almost everything you see in this scene is local.
“The distant universe is largely blocked from our view by both the interstellar medium, which is sparse gas and dust located between stars, and a thick dust lane in our Milky Way galaxy.
“As a result, the stars take center stage in Webb’s view of the Pillars of Creation.”
The Pillars of Creation are located in the constellation of Serpents.
New super space telescope: Webb (pictured) has instruments that see in different wavelengths of infrared
In October, experts published an image of the pillars of the creation of the near infrared camera (NIRCam)
They then followed that up with an image of its Mid Infrared Instrument (MIRI)
This contains a young, hot star cluster, NGC6611, visible with modest backyard telescopes, which sculpts and illuminates the surrounding gas and dust, resulting in a huge hollowed-out cavity and pillars, each several light years.
The 1995 Hubble image hinted at the birth of new stars in the pillars. Due to obscuring dust, Hubble’s visible-light image couldn’t see inside and prove that young stars were forming.
NASA then sent Hubble back for a second visit, allowing them to compare the two shots.
Astronomers have noticed changes in a jet-like feature moving away from one of the newborn stars in the pillars.
The jet stretched 60 billion miles between sightings, suggesting material in the jet was moving at a speed of around 450,000 miles per hour.
James Webb Telescope: NASA’s $10 billion telescope designed to detect light from early stars and galaxies
The James Webb Telescope has been described as a “time machine” that could help unlock the secrets of our universe.
The telescope will be used to observe the first galaxies born in the early universe more than 13.5 billion years ago, and observe the sources of stars, exoplanets and even moons and planets in our solar system.
The vast telescope, which has already cost more than $7bn (£5bn), is seen as the successor to the orbiting Hubble Space Telescope
The James Webb Telescope and most of its instruments have an operating temperature of around 40 Kelvin – about minus 387 Fahrenheit (minus 233 Celsius).
It is the largest and most powerful orbital space telescope in the world, capable of observing 100 to 200 million years after the Big Bang.
The orbiting infrared observatory is designed to be about 100 times more powerful than its predecessor, the Hubble Space Telescope.
NASA likes to think of James Webb as a successor to Hubble rather than a replacement, as the two will be working in tandem for some time.
The Hubble Telescope was launched on April 24, 1990 via Space Shuttle Discovery from Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
It circles the Earth at a speed of approximately 17,000 mph (27,300 km/h) in low Earth orbit at an altitude of approximately 340 miles.
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