NASA’s James Webb Telescope gives us a lush, highly detailed view of the iconic Pillars of Creation, the place where new stars form in dense clouds of gas and dust.
Messier 16 or Eagle Nebula
In this spectacular 3D image we see part of the Eagle Nebula, approximately 7,000 light years distant from Earth , as a majestic rock formation, although in reality it is considerably more permeable. The plume formed from interstellar gases and dust that are cold and sometimes appear semi-transparent in near-infrared light.
This cosmic formation was first captured by the Hubble Space Telescope in 1995 and again in 2014 for what was previously the most detailed view ever seen by the human eye—that is, until now. Webb’s new view shows us many more stars in this cosmic tapestry that will help us learn much more about how these objects form.
JWST’s intricate image will help astronomers identify much more accurate counts of newly formed stars, along with the amounts of gas and dust in the region.
A very special stellar nursery
NASA explained in a statement that young stars periodically shoot out supersonic jets that collide with clouds of material, such as these thick pillars. When clumps of gas and dust knot up and become dense, they eventually collapse under their own gravity, slowly heat up, and become a new star. Wavy lava-like lines forming at the edges of the pillar are ejecta from stars forming within the gas and dust. The crimson glow comes from energetic hydrogen molecules that result from the jets and crashes.
“Newly formed stars are the scene stealers in this NIRCam image,” the Webb astronomers said. “These are the bright red orbs that typically have diffraction spikes and are found outside one of the dusty pillars. When knots with enough mass form within the pillars of gas and dust, they begin to collapse under their own gravity, they slowly heat up and eventually form new stars.”
Approximately 4 to 5 light-years across , the Pillars of Creation are a fascinating but relatively small feature of this pretty nebula, spanning 70 by 55 light-years.
“Although it may appear that near-infrared light has allowed Webb to break through the clouds to reveal vast cosmic distances beyond the pillars, there are no galaxies in this view. Instead, a mixture of translucent gas and dust known as the interstellar medium in the densest part of our Milky Way’s disk blocks our view of the deeper universe ,” Webb astronomers continue.
Reference: NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope.