20 years ago, NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope took one of the most iconic space images. It’s dubbed the ‘Pillars of Creation’ and is located in a small region the Eagle Nebula (M16).
As the Hubble approaches its 25th anniversary it’s taking another look at the ‘Pillars.’ Today, NASA is giving everyone an even sharper and wider view of the nebula.
Paul Scowen, who helped lead the original Hubble photos of the Eagle Nebula, said he is “impressed by how transitory these structures are.”
“They are actively being ablated away before our very eyes. The ghostly bluish haze around the dense edges of the pillars is material getting heated up and evaporating away into space. We have caught these pillars at a very unique and short-lived moment in their evolution,” Scowen added.
Thanks to the incredible detail of the new image, astronomers can see how the nebula has changed over the past 20 years. One small, jet-like feature has been rocketing farther into space at 450,000 miles per hour.
When you look at the above image, you could be looking at how our own sun formed. NASA says there is evidence that when our solar system was forming – it was exposed to radiation from a supernova.
Meaning our sun had to come from a cluster of stars that included ones massive enough to go supernova.
“What that means is when you look at the environment of the Eagle Nebula or other star-forming regions, you’re looking at exactly the kind of nascent environment that our sun formed in,” Scowen explains.
Image credit: NASA