The Pillars of Creation is one of the most famous photographs ever taken by the Hubble Space Telescope. The feature is located in the Eagle Nebula and lies 7,000 light years from Earth.
The Hubble revisited the Pillars of Creation in celebration of its 25 years in space.
Today, the European Southern Observatory shows the Pillars of Creation in exceptional detail. Using the MUSE instrument on the Very Large Telescope, we can now see the orientation of the gas/dust columns.
According to the press release:
MUSE has shown that the tip of the left pillar is facing us, atop a pillar that is is actually situated behind NGC 6611, unlike the other pillars. This tip is bearing the brunt of the radiation from NGC 6611’s stars, and as a result looks brighter to our eyes than the bottom left, middle and right pillars, whose tips are all pointed away from our view.
Picture of MUSE
MUSE also tells us how much longer the Pillars of Creation will last, by measuring the rate of evaporation. Every million years, the Pillars of Creation shed 70 times the mass of the sun. With a mass of about 200 times that of the sun, the Pillars of Creation will only be around for another 3 million years. A timescale hard for us to fathom, but just a blink of an eye for the universe.
Researchers published their results in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.