The Pillars of Creation located with the Eagle Nebula are one of the most awe inspiring sights taken from the Hubble Telescope.
Images taken of the Eagle Nebula taken from the Hubble Telescope first became famous in 1995 with the main pillar reaching around 90 trillion kilometres in length. Few sights or scenes from space inspire greater feelings of awe. The sheer magnificence and wondrous ability that the Hubble Telescope has given us; to be able to glimpse at the creation and infancy of the most powerful objects in the universe, stars, is truly remarkable. If one were a religious person, it most certainly must reaffirm ones belief in a divine hand at work. For those more scientifically minded, it might cause us to reconsider our stance on the whole design argument.
The Eagle Nebula, Star Incubator
The Eagle Nebula is associated with the open star cluster named M16 and is located circa 7000 light-years away from us, in close local to the Constellation of the Serpent, (Serpens) and spans around 20 light-years in itself. It is a breeding ground for Blue Stars, a Stella Nursery if you will. The Blue Stars are formed from Cold Hydrogen Gas, which resides within chaotic neighbourhoods. The pillars that you can see on the pictures are actually incubators for these new stars. The gas collapses under the immense forces of gravity and form stars under the immense pressure exerted there.
You can see from the picture above, the almost fantasy like images captured by the Hubble Telescope and the reason for M16 being called the Eagle Nebula.
The Blue Stars that are visible around the Cold Hydrogen Gas clouds are newborns, they also, as with all stars, excert massive amount of gravitational forces, perhaps, assisting in the creation of other stars, it is conception, incubation and birth on a truly interstellar scale.
This pillar stretches around 90 trillion kilometres, around 9.7 light-years, it is truly enormous. If you look closely you can see the shapes and formations which are actually the birthing areas of the stars, these are actually the size of our own solar system.
From a wider view you can see, near the bottom left of the picture, the above pillar with the Nebula’s namesake near the top. The above image gives you an idea of the true scale of this "star production line." What is certain, is that the more stars that are born, the more ultraviolet light/radiation is emitted, which is slowly burning away the Cold Hydrogen Gas. The pillars are getting smaller; (this is called Photoevaporation) as they also form the material the star is both born from and fed during its creation and infancy.
Photoevaporation and Star Eggs
As the gas of the pillars erodes, smaller, even denser areas of gas are uncovered; these are called EGGs, Evaporating Gaseous Globules. Forming inside some of these EGGs are embryonic stars; as the gas is stripped away the material they were feeding on is removed. As photoevaporation continues, the EGGs thin and the stars themselves are born into the universe.
The Eagle Nebula, A Fertile Stella Nursery
Looking at the above pictures, you should be able to see the brighter colours at the top of the pillars. This is the intense starlight produced by the young stars born of the Nebula. This intense light is heating the tops of the pillar's creating a "shock front," this creates an almost trash compactor effect. As the heated gas expands, it pushes down on the colder gas below, this tremendous pressure compacts the gas even further, making the formation of new stars quicker and easier.
The Spectacular Colours Captured by the Hubble Telescope
It is the powerful ultraviolet light of the star cluster that energises the gas, producing the vibrant colours you can see on the pictures. The brilliant blue is from glowing oxygen, the red is from glowing hydrogen. The above picture was taken in 2004 by the Hubble Telescope.
The Eagle Nebula
The Eagle Nebula was first spotted in the late 18th Century, it was, Object 16 in Charles Messiers, Catalogue of Fuzzy Things Which Aren’t Comets. It is without doubt a magnificent sight to behold and will continue to astound us for generations to come. Already, since the first images were taken in 1995, advances in the technology used aboard the Hubble Telescope has enabled us to view images of greater detail and intricacy, these images, will only improve as our technology does, as will our understanding of this interstellar phenomenon and of the building blocks of our universe.
The Hubble Telescope. Hubblesite. http://hubblesite.org/newscenter/archive/releases/1995/44/image/a/ Retrieved 09/11/10
EESA. Hubble. http://www.spacetelescope.org/images/heic0506b/ Retrieved 09/11/10