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25 Years Later, The “Pillars of Creation” are Still Breathtaking

9 Jan 2015, 10:37 am


(Credit: NASA)

In 1995, about five years after the Hubble Space Telescope starting staring deep into the heavens, it came across the now iconic Pillars of Creation. The Pillars, also known as the Eagle Nebula, are a massive finger-like nebula that are composed hydrogen and other interstellar dust. This odd-shaped nebula is located about 6,500 light years from Earth, in the constellation Serpens.

The nebula is called the “Pillars of Creation” due to the density of stars in the surrounding region.

The nearly 20-year-old image still inspires awe amongst most that look at it. And to celebrate the 25 years of Hubble’s operation, NASA aimed the telescope back at the haunting celestial display.

The results were stunning.

Using upgraded technology and taking images at varying wavelengths, some pretty amazing images came to light.


This image shows the difference between the 1995 image (left) and the 2014 image (right),
(Credit: NASA)

“They look quite different and more fantastical than in the original photo, since Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 took the photo in visible as well as near-infrared light , and different gases were processed to be represented by different colors. Plus, the pillars now look more translucent, because they’ve eroded significantly since we’ve seen them in 1995,” reports

Paul Scowen of Arizona State University explains the massive erosion of the nebula, in a NASA press release: “The gas is not being passively heated up and gently wafting away into space. The gaseous pillars are actually getting ionized, a process by which electrons are stripped off of atoms, and heated up by radiation from the massive stars. And then they are being eroded by the stars’ strong winds and barrage of charged particles, which are literally sandblasting away the tops of these pillars.”

Hence the reason in the astronomical community have now dubbed the “Pillars of Creation” the “Pillars of Destruction.” Whatever their name, the represent the intrinsic beauty of our infinitely vast Universe.

Meteorologist Alan Raymond

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