The Pillars of Creation: Hubble v. Webb

The Hubble Space Telescope’s 1995 image of the Pillars of Creation is one of the most well known astronomical pictures. It was updated in 2014 with a sharper, wider view taken in visible light; that’s shown on the left. The new, near-infrared-light view from the James Webb Space Telescope on the right cuts through more of the dust in this star-forming region. The  dusty pillars aren’t as opaque to infrared light, so many more new red stars can be seen.

Image Credits: NASA / ESA / CSA / STScI

Pillars of Creation

The Pillars of Creation are a feature in the Eagle Nebula. This pair of images was taken by Hubble in 2014. The first image shows the Pillars in visible light capturing the silhouette of the dark cloud. The second shows the Pillars in the near-infrared light. The dust transparent at IR wavelengths, revealing the stars within and behind the cloud.

Video Credit: STScI

Herschel’s View of the Eagle Nebula

Herschel_Eagle_Nebulapillars6_hst_960The famous Hubble Space Telescope image of the Pillars of Creation,the light-years long star forming columns of cold gas and dust inside the Eagle Nebula is inset on the left. This false-color composite image above shows the nearby stellar nursery using data from the Herschel Space Observatory. Herschel‘s far infrared detectors record the emission from the region’s cold dust directly. The famous pillars are included near the center of the scene.

Image Credit: ESA

The Pillars of Creation

Pillars of Creation IREagle_nebula_pillars smallOne of the iconic Hubble images is the one on the left which shows a portion of the Eagle Nebula known as the Pillars of Creation. The image above was also taken by Hubble, but in near-infrared light, transforming the pillars into eerie, wispy silhouettes seen against a background of stars.

The near-infrared light can penetrate much of the gas and dust, revealing stars behind the nebula as well as others hidden inside the pillars. New stars embedded in the tops of the pillars, however, are apparent as bright sources that are unseen in the visible image.

The ghostly haze (colored blue in this false color image) around the dense edges of the pillars is material being heated by the intense ultraviolet radiation from a cluster of young, massive stars which is just out of the frame.

Image Credit: NASA

The Eagle in 3D

3D data visualisation of the Pillars of CreationEagle_nebula_pillars smallMany of the Gentle Readers will remember the iconic image on the left of the Pillars of Creation in the Eagle Nebula (aka Messier 16) made famous in a picture from the Hubble Space Telescope. Using the Multi Unit Spectroscopic Explorer instrument on European Southern Observatory’s  Very Large Telescope, astronomers have produced the first complete three-dimensional view.

The VLT observations show how the different dusty pillars are distributed in space and reveal many new details, including a previously unknown jet from a young star. Intense radiation and stellar winds from the cluster’s brilliant stars have shaped the Pillars of Creation over time and will blow them away over the next three million years.

Image Credit: ESO

In the Eagle Nebula

This video crossfades between the Hubble and European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope infrared views of the head of Column 1 of the Pillars of Creation in Eagle Nebula. The bright complex reflection nebulosity and its young, massive energy source are completely unseen at visible wavelengths of the Hubble image.

Video Credit: ESO
Image Credits: NASA / ESO

Eagle Nebula

ESA’s Herschel Space Observatory captured the image above of the Eagle nebula with its intensely cold gas and dust. The Pillars of Creation are seen inside the circle and at left in a famous picture made by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope in 1995.

The Herschel image of the Eagle nebula shows the self-emissions of the intensely cold nebula’s gas and dust as never seen before. Each color shows a different temperature of dust, from around 10 degrees above absolute zero (10 K or -442 °F) for the red, up to around 40 K (or -388 °F) for the blue.

Herschel reveals the intricate nature of the nebula’s tendrils of gas and dust, with large gaps forming a cave-like surrounding to the famous pillars. The gas and dust provide the material for the star formation that is still under way inside this enigmatic nebula.

Image Credits: Herschel, ESA. Hubble, NASA