You’ve seen the Hubble Space Telescope image of M16 or the Eagle Nebula, popularly called the ‘Pillars of Creation.’ Since its release in 1995, it has become one of the most iconic images of the 20th century. Last week (January 17, 2012), the European Space Agency (ESA) released images and a video with updated views of this star-forming region at various wavelengths.
The video above, though slow-moving, is best at showing the context of what you’re seeing when you look at the famous Pillar of Creation image. By the way, in case you’re wondering about the naked man holding a snake in the final image, it represents a classical drawing of the constellation Ophiuchus the Serpent Bearer – holding another constellation Serpens the Serpent – the patterns of stars we earthlings have chosen to see when we look in this direction of space.
Or you might want to click through the images more slowly in the gallery below.
The Eagle Nebula is 6500 light-years away in the constellation of Serpens. It contains a young hot star cluster, NGC6611, visible with modest back-garden telescopes, that is sculpting and illuminating the surrounding gas and dust, resulting in a huge hollowed-out cavity and pillars, each several light-years long.
Far-infrared: ESA/Herschel/PACS/SPIRE/Hill, Motte, HOBYS Key Programme Consortium
Far-infrared and X-ray: ESA/Herschel/PACS/SPIRE/Hill, Motte, HOBYS Key Programme Consortium; X-ray: ESA/XMM-Newton/EPIC/XMM-Newton-SOC/Boulanger
Visible light: NASA/ESA/STScI, Hester & Scowen
Mid-Infrared: Image Credits: ESA/ISO/Pilbratt et al.
Near-Infrared: VLT/ISAAC/McCaughrean & Andersen/AIP/ESO
Bottom line: ESA has released updated images, in various waveelengths, of the Hubble Space Telescope image of M16 or the Eagle Nebula, popularly called the ‘Pillars of Creation.’
Deborah Byrd created the EarthSky radio series in 1991 and founded EarthSky.org in 1994. Today, she serves as Editor-in-Chief of this website. She has won a galaxy of awards from the broadcasting and science communities, including having an asteroid named 3505 Byrd in her honor. A science communicator and educator since 1976, Byrd believes in science as a force for good in the world and a vital tool for the 21st century. "Being an EarthSky editor is like hosting a big global party for cool nature-lovers," she says.