The Pillars of Creation in NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope’s near-infrared-light view. Credits: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI; Joseph DePasquale (STScI), Anton M. Koekemoer (STScI), Alyssa Pagan (STScI).
October 19, 2022
The James Webb Space Telescope of NASA has released this image of the Pillars of Creation that shows the birth of new stars happening in dramatic three dimensional pillars. Although they are far more permeable, the three-dimensional pillars resemble beautiful rock formations. The chilly interstellar gas and dust that make up these columns sometimes seem semi-transparent in near-infrared light. By identifying much more accurate counts of newly formed stars as well as the quantities of gas and dust in the region, Webb's new view of the Pillars of Creation, which NASA's Hubble Space Telescope first made famous when it imaged them in 1995, will aid researchers in revising their models of star formation. They will gradually develop a better grasp of how stars grow in these dusty clouds over millions of years and then explode out of them.
This photo was taken by Webb's Near-Infrared Camera and features newly formed stars as the main attraction (NIRCam). These are the bright red orbs that are usually outside one of the dusty pillars and contain diffraction spikes. Within the pillars of gas and dust, knots that have amassed sufficient mass start to collapse under their own gravitational pull, slowly heat up, and finally give birth to new stars. What about those wavy lines at the rims of some pillars that resemble lava? These are star-forming stellar ejections from the surrounding gas and dust. Periodically, young stars emit supersonic jets that slam into dense pillar-like clouds of matter. In some cases, this also leads to bow shocks, which can create wavy patterns similar to what a boat makes when it travels across water. The vibrant hydrogen molecules produced by jets and shocks are what give off the color. The NIRCam image almost pulses with their activity, as seen in the second and third pillars from the top. The age of these newborn stars is only thought to be a few hundred thousand years. There aren't any galaxies in this image, despite the impression that Webb was able to "punch through" the clouds using near-infrared light to expose vast cosmic distances beyond the pillars.
Hubble first captured this view in 1995 and returned to it in 2014, but other other observatories have also given this area their undivided attention. Each cutting-edge equipment provides researchers with fresh information about this region, which is virtually bursting at the seams with stars. The expansive Eagle Nebula, about 6,500 light-years away, is depicted in this closely cropped photograph.
After returning to the area in 2014, NASA's Hubble Space Telescope revealed a sharper, wider view in visible light, as seen above at left. The Hubble Space Telescope initially made the Pillars of Creation famous with its first image in 1995. Right, a new picture in near-infrared light from NASA's James Webb Space Telescope enables us to see more of the star-forming region's dust. More red stars that are still growing can be seen when the thick, dusty brown pillars become less opaque..
Credits: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI; Joseph DePasquale (STScI), Anton M. Koekemoer (STScI), Alyssa Pagan (STScI).