Nearly 30 years ago, the Pillars of Creation astounded the astronomy world when they were captured by NASA’s famous Hubble Space Telescope.
Now a new generation can enjoy a new view of the haunting spectacle after the US space agency’s $10 billion (£7.4 billion) James Webb Hyperspace Telescope imaged the same finger-like tendrils of gas and dust.
Resembling a ghostly hand, the Pillars of Creation are part of the Eagle Nebula – which is 6,500 light-years from Earth – and is known to be a source of star formation.
This week NASA and the European Space Agency revealed another look at the plumes from Webb’s sharp eyes.
Beautiful: Almost 30 years ago, the Pillars of Creation astounded the astronomy world when they were captured by NASA’s famous Hubble Space Telescope. Now a new generation can enjoy a new view of the haunting spectacle after the US space agency’s $10 billion (£7.4 billion) James Webb space telescope imaged the same finger-like tendrils of gas and dust (pictured)
Hubble took the first image of the Pillars of Creation in 1995. It provided the first evidence that stars could be born inside the pillars.
What are the pillars of creation?
It is one of the most iconic space features ever caught on camera.
The Pillars of Creation were first captured by NASA’s Hubble Telescope in 1995, then re-imaged in 2014.
Now, nearly 30 years after our first sighting of the agonizing formation, it has been imaged again by NASA’s new James Webb Superspace Telescope.
The Pillars of Creation, located 6,500 light-years from Earth in the constellation of the Serpent, are part of the Eagle Nebula.
It is known to be an important source of star formation.
Gas and dust in the tentacle-like tendrils give birth to stars, including many very young and some now imaged that are only a few 100,000 years old.
In the 1995 Hubble image, the blue colors represent oxygen, the red is sulfur, and the green represents both nitrogen and hydrogen.
The pillars are bathed in scorching 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 latest image was taken in mid-infrared light, which obscures the brightness of stars so that it captures only flowing gas and dust. This provided a new way to experience and understand the amazing composition.
Webb has instruments that see in different wavelengths of infrared light.
In October, experts released an image of the Creation Pillars from the Near Infrared Camera (NIRCam), before following that up with an image from the Medium Infrared Instrumentation (MIRI).
They’ve now stitched the images together to produce a haunting image that features the best of both views, showcasing glowing edges of dust where young stars are just beginning to form.
NIRCam reveals newly forming stars orange outside the pillars, while MRI shows layers of dust in formation.
“This is one of the reasons why the region is overflowing with stars – dust is a key component of star formation,” NASA said.
Glowing red fingertips on the second pillar indicate active star formation, but the stars are just babies — NASA estimates that they are only 100,000 years old.
It takes 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 cosmos is framed in infrared glory,” Webb’s team writes.
They said it “set this star-forming region on fire with new detail”.
When knots of gas and dust of sufficient mass form in the poles, they begin to collapse under their own gravity, slowly heating up, and eventually forming new stars.
“Newly formed stars are especially visible at the edges of the two upper pillars – they are practically bursting into view,” Webb’s team said.
Almost everything you see in this scene is local.
The distant universe is largely obscured from our view by the interstellar medium, which is made up of the sparse interstellar gas and dust, and the thick lane of dust in our own Milky Way galaxy.
“As a result, the stars take center stage in a Pillars of Creation web show.”
The Pillars of Creation are located in the constellation of the Serpent.
New Super Space Telescope: Webb (pictured) has instruments that see in various wavelengths of infrared light
In October, experts released an image of the Pillars of Creation from the Near Infrared Camera (NIRCam).
Then follow it up with a picture from the medium infrared device (MIRI).
This contains a hot young star cluster, NGC6611, visible with unassuming telescopes in the back garden, which sculpts and illuminates the surrounding gas and dust, producing massive hollow bores and pillars, each several light-years across.
A Hubble image taken in 1995 hinted that new stars were being born inside the pillars. Because of the dust blocking, the Hubble telescope’s visible-light image was unable to see inside and prove that young stars were forming.
Then NASA brought Hubble back for a second visit, allowing them to compare the two snapshots.
Astronomers have noticed changes in a jet-like feature shooting away from one of the newborn stars within the pillars.
The jet has grown 60 billion miles in length between observations, indicating that material in the jet was traveling at about 450,000 miles per hour.
James Webb Telescope: NASA’s $10 billion telescope is designed to detect light from the oldest stars and galaxies
The James Webb Telescope has been described as a “time machine” that can help unlock the secrets of our universe.
The telescope will be used to look at the first galaxies born in the early universe more than 13.5 billion years ago, observing the sources of stars, exoplanets, and even the moons and planets of our solar system.
The massive telescope, which has already cost more than $7 billion (£5 billion), is considered the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope.
The James Webb telescope and most of its instruments have a temperature of about 40 K — about minus 387 Fahrenheit (minus 233 Celsius).
It is the world’s largest and most powerful orbiting space telescope, capable of looking back 100-200 million years after the Big Bang.
The infrared observatory orbiting it is designed to be about 100 times more powerful than its predecessor, the Hubble Space Telescope.
NASA likes to think of James Webb as Hubble’s successor rather than a replacement, as the two will be working in tandem for a while.
The Hubble telescope was launched on April 24, 1990, via the space shuttle Discovery from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
It orbits Earth at about 17,000 mph (27,300 kph) in a low Earth orbit at an altitude of about 340 miles.
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