Monday, June 13, 2011

The Pillars of Creation: The Hidden Truth Behind Them

Although not a current event, it is one that should be known because of how interesting it is. The famous 'Pillars of Creation' in the Eagle Nebula (Messier 16) was taken by the Hubble Space Telescope on April 1, 1995 and was included as one of the ten most famous Hubble pictures.

These pillars are truly beautiful and are much bigger than you would think. The longest pillar is seven light-years long (forty-six trillion miles) and each 'EGG' (acronym for 'evaporating gaseous globule'; the jagged edges of the pillar where new stars are born) are as big as a solar system. If our solar system (from the Sun to Pluto, excluding Sedna) is about 3.7 billion miles big, these pillars are huge.

But, something very tragic occurred early in 2007. The Eagle Nebula sits in the constellation Serpens, approximately seven-thousand light years away.It has been reported that the Pillars of Creation were suddenly destroyed by a supernova explosion approximately six-thousand years ago. The new shape won't reach earth until the year (approx.) 3000.  In the image below, you can see a 'bubble' moving rapidly towards the pillars as Nicolas Flagey, a French doctoral student working for NASA, reported to a meeting of the American Astronomical Society, January 8, 2007. The Spitzer Space telescope writes:
Astronomers have long predicted that a supernova blast wave would mean the end for the popular pillars. The region is littered with 20 or so stars ripe for exploding, so it was only a matter of time, they reasoned, before one would blow up. The new Spitzer observations suggest one of these stellar time bombs has in fact already detonated, an event humans most likely witnessed 1,000 to 2,000 years ago as an unusually bright star in the sky.

National Geographic encouages us, though:
But the blast isn't entirely bad news. Supernova shock-waves, astronomers believe, help to ignite new stars in the dust clouds that they reach.
This is the picture of the entire Messier 16. You can see the famous 'Spire' to the far left, and the 'Pillars of Creation' in the center. The other two pictures are other star-making factories; because, that's what a nebula is: a star-making factory.


  1. Revisiting these ancient pillars! January 19 - [] Herschel Telescope views these in a spectrum, never seen before!