Back in 1995, the Hubble telescope took an absolutely breathtaking photo of stars being formed that's now known as "Pillars of Creation". And now, 20 years later, NASA has released a couple of new images of the same star formation that was taken by a new and improved Hubble last year. It's beyond breathtaking. It's bonkers.
The new, larger image (above left) has a higher resolution than the original (above right). This side-by-side shows just how much more of the scene the improved Hubble telescope was able to capture:
As exceptional as the iconic image has become, the Pillars of Creation photos don't necessarily show an uncommon event. The three columns in the Eagle Nebula (also known as M16) are actually swirls hydrogen gas and dust gradually cooling down. It sounds a little violent.
"These pillars represent a very dynamic, active process," Scowen said. "The gaseous pillars are actually getting ionised, 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."
That process is happening all the time, all over the universe. And it's probably just as beautiful — if not more even more beautiful — than what's happening in the Eagle Nebula. It's hard to imagine anything more beautiful than this new infrared image of the Pillars of Creation that NASA just released. This infrared photo shows all of the stars being born inside the gas pillars:
Also bonkers. Is it more bonkers than the photo with the visible light spectrum? You tell me.
Pictures: NASA / ESA / Hubble / Hubble Heritage Team