One of the most anticipated images from the James Webb Space Telescope has been released.
The Webb telescope looked into the heart of the Eagle Nebula, located 6,500 light-years away, thus managing to capture one of the most famous cosmic structures known as the Pillars of Creation.
Cutting through a cosmic cloud like giant fingers, the Pillars of Creation first came into focus when the Hubble Space Telescope, just five years into its mission, photographed the region in 1995. The structures were unlike anything seen before until then. Majestic clouds of dust and gas glowing and stretching for many light-years in space.
The Pillars of Creation as we have never seen them before
Now Webb, the most sensitive telescope in human history, has given us the most detailed picture yet of these spectacular cosmic structures, reports Science Alert.
Astronomers have been waiting for some time to get Webb images of the Pillars of Creation, not just for their boundless beauty, but also for the activity they hide. The structures are what scientists call stellar nurseries, clumps of dust in nebulae where stars are born. Such events occur when dust collapses and begins to accumulate more material from the cloud around it.
Once a star grows large enough, its winds and radiation blow away the surrounding dust. At least that’s what the theory says, those early stages of star formation being literally hidden from our eyes.
What are the reddish regions at the tops of the Pillars?
Our best chance to learn more is to analyze the infrared light escaping from the cosmic structure. Mankind has seen the Pillars of Creation in infrared before. NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope caught them in 2007, and the European Space Agency’s (ESA’s) Herschel Space Observatory gave us an infrared view of the Eagle Nebula in 2012. Even the Hubble Space Telescope photographed them in 2014.
However, the Webb Telescope is far more powerful than any of these instruments, and its image of the Pillars of Creation reveals new details. For example, the reddish regions at the tips of the Pillars are evidence of young stars that are in the process of dispersing the surrounding dust.
A cosmic spectacle that leaves us speechless
So scientists will be able to use this new image to conduct more precise research with star formation in thick clouds, a process that has always been extremely difficult to study.
As for the rest of the viewers, the new image from the Webb Telescope reveals a cosmic spectacle that leaves us speechless and reminds us just how beautiful the Universe is.
High resolution images of Pillars of Creation can be downloaded from HERE.