Pillars of Creation look spooky in latest JWST photo • The Register
The James Webb Space Telescope team has released its latest photo of the Pillars of Creation that strikes a perfect spooky, dusty note for Halloween.
Unlike the star-filled, colorful photo of the astronomical marvel published by NASA this month created using JWST’s Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam), the last image shows the pillars lifeless and gray, with few stars visible through a thick cloak of dust.
The photo was taken by Webb’s Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI), which instead of capturing images of near-infrared light, focuses on mid-spectrum infrared light, which NASA said is much better at picking up interstellar dust. .
“Mid-infrared light specializes in detailing where there is dust, [and] the stars are not bright enough to appear at these wavelengths,” NASA said.
What the image does show is a lot of very important dust that is an important factor in star formation, and stars that are still developing, which can be seen by their red hue in the MIRI image.
“When knots of sufficient mass form in the pillars of gas and dust, they begin to collapse under their own gravity, slowly warming up and eventually forming new stars,” NASA said.
The NIRCam image shows stars during their formation cycles, as well as rays of energetic matter blasted from evolving stars, appearing as “lava” at the ends of some pillars. The stars that emit these bursts of light are estimated to be only a few hundred thousand years old.
For those curious about the size of those red-tinted baby stars, NASA has it for you: “Pull the top pillar and land on the bright red star that sticks out of its bottom rim like a broomstick. This star and its dusty shroud are larger than the size of our entire solar system.”
The Pillars of Creation were first photographed by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope in 1995 and again in 2014 in both visible and near infrared light. Although the Pillars themselves are about four to five light-years long, they are only a small part of the larger Eagle Nebula, which is 70 by 55 light-years long. The nebula itself is located 6,500 light-years away.
Below is a video that will give you a better idea of where the pillars are located.
NASA said photos of the pillars in different wavelengths of light give scientists more clues about how stars are formed. The latest image, NASA said, is the highest mid-infrared resolution taken of the pillars and will “enable precise dust measurements to create a more complete three-dimensional landscape of this distant region.” ®
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