Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Eagle Nebula (M16) Pillars

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/N. Flagey (IAS/SSC) & A. Noriega-Crespo (SSC/Caltech)

Unwrapping the Pillars

This image composite highlights the pillars of the Eagle nebula, as seen in infrared light by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope (bottom) and visible light by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope (top insets).

The top right inset focuses on the three famous pillars, dubbed the "Pillars of Creation," which were photographed by Hubble in 1995. Hubble's optical view shows the dusty towers in exquisite detail, while Spitzer's infrared eyes penetrate through the thick dust, revealing ghostly transparent structures. The same effect can be seen for the pillar outlined in the top left box.

In both cases, Spitzer's view exposes newborn stars that were hidden inside the cocoon-like pillars, invisible to Hubble. These stars were first uncovered by the European Space Agency's Infrared Satellite Observatory. In the Spitzer image, two embedded stars are visible at the tip and the base of the left pillar, while one star can be seen at the tip of the tallest pillar on the right.

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/N. Flagey (IAS/SSC) & A. Noriega-Crespo (SSC/Caltech)

Eagle Nebula Flaunts Its Infrared Feathers

This set of images from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope shows the Eagle nebula in different hues of infrared light. Each view tells a different tale. The left picture shows lots of stars and dusty structures with clarity. Dusty molecules found on Earth called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons produce most of the red; gas is green and stars are blue.

The middle view is packed with drama, because it tells astronomers that a star in this region violently erupted, or went supernova, heating surrounding dust (orange). This view also reveals that the hot dust is shell shaped, another indication that a star exploded.

The final picture highlights the contrast between the hot, supernova-heated dust (green) and the cooler dust making up the region's dusty star-forming clouds and towers (red, blue and purple).

The left image is a composite of infrared light with the following wavelengths: 3.6 microns (blue); 4.5 microns (green); 5.8 microns (orange); and 8 microns (red). The right image includes longer infrared wavelengths, and is a composite of light of 4.5 to 8.0 microns (blue); 24 microns (green); and 70 microns (red). The middle image is made up solely of 24-micron light.