The NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope captured the Pillars of Creation in mid-infrared light, showing us a new view of a familiar landscape.
These pillars, filled with gas and dust, enclose stars that have been slowly forming over many millennia within the vast Eagle Nebulalocated at 6,500 light years away.
From this emerge stars that are just being created thanks to the clouds of interstellar gas and dust. When the latter collapse, as a result of gravitational attraction, the star formation process begins.
The wavy lines shown in the photo are ejecta traveling at the speed of sound from stars that are still forming within.
Last week, the US space agency published a first image where this astronomical object is observed. However, the photograph shared this Friday shows the view of the mid infrared of the telescope.
Because interstellar dust covers the scene, the stars are not bright enough at infrared wavelengths to appear. Instead, the pillars glow at their edges.
Although thousands upon thousands of stars have formed in this region, many are no longer surrounded by enough dust to be detected in mid-infrared light. So Webb’s infrared instrument can only see those that haven’t yet shed their dusty “cloaks.” These are the red light circles seen at the edges of the pillars.
On the contrary, the blue stars are getting oldwhich means that they have shed most of their layers of gas and dust.
Mid-infrared light is excellent for revealing gas and dust in extreme detail. This can be seen throughout the background of the image, with denser areas showing up as darker shades of gray. The red region towards the top is where the dust is diffuse and cooler.
This scene was first photographed by the Hubble Space Telescope in 1995, and again in 2014. Each instrument that has observed it offers researchers new details, revealing more about How do stars form.