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The Pillars of Creation - the icon of the mourning photographs, are crumbling

The magnificent structure seen in the famous 1995 image of the Eagle Nebula suffers from escape of materials from the ionizing radiation of nearby massive stars

Astronomers used the Hubble Space Telescope to take a sharper and larger image of the Eagle Nebula - the "Pillars of Creation". Photo: NASA/ESA/Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)/J. Hester, P. Scowen (Arizona State U.)
Astronomers used the Hubble Space Telescope to take a sharper and larger image of the Eagle Nebula - the "Pillars of Creation". Photo: NASA/ESA/Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)/J. Hester, P. Scowen (Arizona State U.)

Although the Hubble Space Telescope has captured breathtaking images of the universe during its 25 years of operation in space, one image stands above all others - the iconic sight of the so-called "Pillars of Creation".
The image, taken in 1995, reveals never-before-seen details of three Ank columns of cold gas being heated by ultraviolet light from a cluster of massive young stars in a small region of the Eagle Nebula, or M16.

For Hubble's 25th birthday in April, the telescope was asked to return to the famous columns and provided astronomers with a sharper and wider image. Although the original image was called "The Pillars of Creation" the new image can be called "The Pillars of Destruction".

I am amazed at how quickly these structures are changing," explains Paul Scoven from the University of Arizona in Tampa. "They are disintegrating before our eyes. The blue mist around the dense edge of the columns is material that heats up and evaporates into space. We captured these columns at a unique and short-lived moment in their development." Scoven and astronomer J. Hester of the University of Arizona led Hubble's original observations of the Eagle Nebula.

The original 1995 photo was taken in visible light. The new image also includes details from near-infrared light. This light shows that the columns become mysterious silhouettes against the background of the countless stars. This is because the infrared light penetrates through most of the gas and dust, except for the densest areas of the columns. Newly born stars are seen hiding within the columns.

The infrared image shows that at the edge of the pillars there are tight bonds of gas and dust. They trap the gas below them and keep it cold, creating the long structures that look like columns. The material between the pillars has long since evaporated due to the ionizing radiation from the central star cluster above the pillars.

At the top end of the left column, fragments of gas have heated up and are flying out of the structure, which illustrates the violent nature of the regions where stars are formed. "The columns represent an active dynamic process" says Scoven. "The gas does not heat up passively and moves slowly through space. The columns of gas become ionized, a process in which electrons are torn from the atoms, and are heated by the radiation of the massive stars. They are then eroded by the stars' strong solar winds full of ionized particles, which literally blow them out of the top of the pillars."

When Scoven and Hester used Hubble to make the initial observations of the Eagle Nebula in 1995, the astronomers saw pillar-like structures imaged from ground-based telescopes, but not in detail. They knew that the physical processes were not unique to the Eagle Nebula because star forming regions are scattered throughout the universe. However, thanks to the distance to them - 6,500 light years, the M16 nebula is the closest and best example.
When Scoven first saw the photograph of the Eagle Nebula he was speechless. "I called Gef Hester to my lab, we placed the photograph on the table and we were excited by the wealth of detail we were seeing for the first time.

The first formation that caught the eyes of the two in 1995 was the gas streams that seem to float out of the columns. Astronomers debated until then what effect the nearby massive stars had on the gas surrounding them in the stellar maternity home.

"Only one thing can light up a neighborhood like this: massive stars that gain enough 'horsepower' in the ultraviolet light range that they can fuel the gas clouds and make them glow," says Scoven. "Nebula regions where stars such as M16 are formed are the interstellar neon lights, which says - massive stars have just been born here." This was the first time we had direct observational evidence of the erosion process, not only for radiation but also for the mechanical tearing of gas from the columns. This is the phenomenon we saw."

By comparing the images from 1995 and 2014, the astronomers noticed a small, long, narrow jet that might have been ejected from a star during its formation. The jet looks like a stream of water in a garden hose. During the 19 years that passed between the two images, the jet stretched and moved away into space another 100 billion kilometers at an estimated speed of 700 thousand km/h.

“Our sun was formed in a turbulent star formation region like this. There is evidence that the young solar system will be carried by a streak of radioactivity from a nearby supernova. This means that our Sun formed as part of a cluster that included stars massive enough to produce strong ionizing radiation like we see in the Eagle Nebula. "This is the only way by which the nebula from which our Sun was formed could be exposed to a supernova so quickly, in the short period that this phenomenon exists because supernovae only occur in massive stars and these only live a few tens of millions of years." Scoven says. This means that when you look at the environment of the Eagle Nebula and star-forming regions like it, you can see the evolving environment in which our Sun was formed."

A montage comparing the original image from 1995 of the Eagle Nebula, compared to an image of the same area in 2014. Photo: NASA
A montage comparing the original image from 1995 which was more beautiful than the one from 2014. Photo: NASA

For information on the NASA website

30 תגובות

  1. Yigal

    Because the links do not pass the basement stage. The short answer is through mixing channels in Photoshop.
    For more information search on Google: meaning of color hubble

  2. Does anyone know how to color relative to the truth of the original black and white photos, for these beautiful photos? (Obviously Shabel produces black and white photos)

  3. Look, it's terribly complicated to understand even for me, the main thing is that there is a shift, it's my life, it's true, we got to see what our predecessors here only dreamed of.

  4. I repeat myself, I believe the researcher!
    Supernovae twinkle in our telescopes for fractions of a second even though they are thousands of light years away from us (things happen in space both slowly and quickly and enter "the movie we see" what is more, there is a situation that at this given moment they no longer exist physically.

  5. Eyal
    Beautiful, indeed, it is similar to the hand stretched out above. Is there a connection between this? that the nebula is called the bird eagle that flies above all birds, the king of birds and the hand that is stretched upward. Although it is not scientific.'ll know.?!!!

  6. Raphael
    In principle you are right, practically not. Think of a case of diagnosing a disease. Do you think that someone who is not a doctor can diagnose better than a doctor who specializes in diagnosing diseases?

    Maybe there are areas where you are right. I really can't think of a field like this, or a case where someone actually thought of something that surprised the experts in the field. In the past there may have been such cases (and there really are), but then the knowledge in each field was much smaller. And even then - Pasteur's famous sentence is valid.

  7. On the contrary, miracles
    Those who are not imprisoned so deep inside the box have a better chance to speculate outside the box.

  8. Out of the box
    Good scientists constantly think "outside the box" - because that's interesting and that's where the Nobel Prize is. If there was anything unusual in these photos - you can be sure that hundreds and thousands of researchers, among the leaders in the field, looked and looked for something new in the candles.

    Pasteur once said that fortune favors those who are prepared. This is how it is throughout history. I do not think that those who do not have 3-4 degrees in physics can contribute today in these fields, because they are not ready. The problem is that people like you and me don't even know how much we don't know. I dabble a little in mathematics, in my field of work, and every day I learn that I know less than I thought I knew...

  9. Lanisim Shalom: Until Einstein, the laws of physics at that time treated light in a different way than Einstein did. And now quantum theory hits the laws pretty hard. of Einstein. Many things are being rediscovered in science. And today's law is not absolute. It is simply a current data of what man discovers within a grain of the universe. Namely the earth. And even within this grain there are many things that a person has yet to discover... All in all, I pointed to a figure of factual photography. And all of them in their comments before raised opinions that the person who checked their photo did not think about the simple things they claim such as shooting with old equipment and shooting with sophisticated equipment. And a few more assumptions that were probably already checked before they came out with the statement. That's why I only offered to think that there might be a new discovery. And it should be taken more seriously. That is, to get out of the fixed box that the laws we know today are absolute... maybe you should think from a different angle... and actually what do I understand about physics in general...

  10. Out of the box
    The cancer nebula was "created" for two years (as far as I know). It is relatively huge compared to the Eagle Nebula, and is visible without a telescope or binoculars.
    I have already written a possible explanation for the phenomenon of the Eagle Nebula. Simple explanation.

    Before proposing to change the laws of physics, shouldn't you study them first? 🙂

  11. It seems that the width of the pages in the last picture is narrower than the first. Such a difference in relation to the size of the nebula is huge if it happened over 25 years. Imagine what will be left of the nebula in a thousand years. Also how long did it take to form. Just a simple question. Assuming the data in the article is correct. Is it possible that the time of formation is also not as they think. ? Is it possible that the changes in space are much faster...but much more worthless. Is it possible that this is a new and revolutionary discovery?
    (just a point for thought)

  12. Eyal
    Famous in the media, but probably not in the scientific world. An hour of observation is an expensive thing, and perhaps there is no scientific interest specifically in the Eagle Nebula. There is also a hint of this in the article...

  13. Another thing that seems a little strange to me, for 25 years they didn't look with all the sophisticated telescopes at one of the most famous bodies in space, and only after 25 years did they suddenly remember to look at it again and everyone is surprised? Maybe you should find more photos that must have been taken during this period and see if you see a gradual change towards what you see there today.

  14. Eyal
    We see the nebula because it lights up, right? So, maybe there is a chemical reaction there that causes the emission of light, and this reaction is limited in time. Maybe there is a source for the reaction which is, for example, a burst of radiation like our sun has, but not in the area we see in the pictures.

  15. But here, according to what I understand, it's really about a physical change of the structure itself, and not just a burst of light that illuminates everything with a strong light.

  16. Yehuda
    Nice comparison! The Cancer Nebula is almost at the same distance as the Eagle Nebula, and it was visible during the period you mentioned, for a period of two years, in daylight!

  17. to the skeptic
    I don't understand how a possible change in cosmological bodies already brings you to the conclusion that this is supersonic speed or the action of dark mass. It is a bit exaggerated to reach such conclusions. You can see a difference, for example, in the Cancer Nebula - a super nova that exploded in the fifties of the eleventh century without thinking about dark mass and speed on Orit.

  18. I took the picture from the linked site - - and I put the pictures one on top of the other in Photoshop and I can't really understand what they mean (but the pictures are amazing). The photos are very, very similar and there is some change, but it's really hard to decide that it's not really a function of shooting conditions.


    Your claim that changes seem to require displacement in such a way that matter moves at a speed that is higher than the speed of light is completely unclear to me. Where did you get it and what is the connection?

  19. Eyal

    Eyal, you are right. Changes seem to require displacement of the gas (or plasma, or whatever) in such a way that the matter moves at a speed that is higher than the speed of light.

    I don't know the reason for the change in the form of visible radiation.

    Maybe not a shift but a change in the spectrum of the radiation. Maybe even (in an extreme case) real-time evidence of the formation of dark matter. In any case, it is unlikely that this is a movement of materials at super-light speed.

  20. Sounds a bit strange to me... structures like these are created over hundreds of millions of years, it's hard to believe that such a clear difference can be noticed with the eye in just a few decades... Is it possible that the differences are due to the fact that the photos were taken with different cameras (one also very old, and one new) and shooting conditions Different ? (Exposure time, frequencies that the camera picks up, etc.) Maybe this is the reason for the difference and it's actually just an illusion of change?

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