Perhaps there is no astronomical image more iconic than the Pillars of Creation. First captured by Hubble in 1995 in the Eagle Nebula, multiple telescopes have focused on that area, and the new James Webb was no exception. Thanks to its enormous power, the new image is a grand spectacle, displaying unprecedented detail.
The pillars of creation take their name from the constancy of being a source of star creation. Located in the Eagle Nebula, the original image of the Hubble it showed three plumes of hydrogen three light-years long amid stardust, in a dense region of gas and cosmic dust about 6,500 light-years from Earth, located in the cluster known as “evaporating gas globules.”
The ESA Herschel and XMM-Newton telescopes confirmed years later the star formation in the nebulasomething that the original Hubble did not prove in itself due to the darkness of the floating dust and that was possible thanks to the long and short infrared wavelengths, which allowed astronomers to see inside the pillars where reactions are triggered nuclei that give rise to new stars.
In 2014, Hubble recaptured these Pillars of Creation providing much more detail, but the visible light snapshot left the pillars relatively opaque and obscured some of the forming stars. It must be said that the Eagle Nebula is located in a region located in the Serpent constellation and is one of the most beautiful in the known universe and the source of star birth.
It was obvious that the James Webb, the most advanced space telescope in history, was going to focus its impressive ‘eyes’, its 18 hexagons that form the primary mirror of 6.5 meters almost triple that of Hubble, to this region . detail is impressive. The new stars are the bright red points of light in the scene and are estimated to be ‘only’ a few hundred thousand years old.
Hubble and James Webb Captures Compared
The red glow of the pillars, not to mention the wavy lines at some edges, are the result of jets and bow shocks energizing the hydrogen and pushing it out. We don’t see galaxies since gas and dust from the Milky Way’s interstellar medium block out more distant objects in such a dense area.
The image is not only a delight to the eye, It will also have scientific use. Astronomers hope to revise their models of star formation thanks to the more precise data on stars, gas and dust that Webb will provide. This could improve our understanding of these ‘nurseries’ of stars, their early birth and the Universe in general.
Download the images (uncompressed) NASA – Pillars of Creation – James Webb