Webb Telescope Captures Breathtaking Image of the Pillars of Creation – Tech21K

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Few Hubble images are as iconic as the Pillars of Creation, towering structures of interstellar gas in the Eagle Nebula. After first imaging the pillars in 1995, Hubble revisited them in 2014 with its upgraded camera hardware. Even that image cannot compare to the latest snapshot from the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). Webb shows the Pillars of Creation in unprecedented detail, revealing never-before-seen details that astronomers believe could help improve our understanding of stellar formation.

The Eagle Nebula is in the Serpens constellation, about 6,500 light years away from Earth. The pillars are just one small part of the nebula, but the largest of the three is about four light-years tall. Proxima Centauri, our nearest stellar neighbor. The structures are composed of cool interstellar gas, which looked mostly opaque to Hubble. However, the JWST’s infrared NIRCam makes the clouds semi-transparent. Thus, the new image multiplies the number of visible stars.

This region of space is of interest to scientists not only for the awe-inspiring shapes but because the Eagle Nebula is a region of active current star formation. When the swirls of gas in the nebula become dense enough, they collapse under the force of gravity to form new stars. In the image, Webb’s NIRCam instrument shows newly formed stars as bright red dots peppered throughout the clouds. The wavy projections from the pillars come from supersonic jets periodically ejected during the early phases of a young star’s life. the cause of the red glow of energized hydrogen molecules seen in several locations, for example, the top of the middle pillar.

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Left: the original image captured by Hubble in 1995, Right: Webb’s new 2022 image.

NASA says that studying objects like the Pillars of Creation with Webb will aid in revamping our models of star formation. Hubble did great things for astronomy, but it’s more than 30 years old. Webb’s segmented primary mirror has more than 25 square meters of surface area , more than six times as much as Hubble. Webb’s operation in the infrared spectrum, as opposed to visible light, also helps it peer through the dust and gas surrounding stars like the ones seen in the Eagle Nebula. comparison image above — this is exactly the kind of observation Webb was designed for.

The scientific importance of this work cannot be overstated, but the newly released image will also make a great phone or desktop background. You can even download the full-resolution version suitable for printing directly from NASA. It clocks in at a whopping 163MB.

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