The iconic Pillars of Creation is set within the vast Eagle Nebula, which lies 6,500 light-years away.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration, over the weekend, released an eerie image of the Pillars of Creation taken from the James Webb Space Telescope in mid-infrared light, showing a new view of a familiar landscape.
The reason behind the ‘chilling mood’ in the image is “interstellar dust cloaks the scene, and while mid-infrared light specializes in detailing where dust is, the stars aren’t bright enough at these wavelengths to appear,” NASA said. “Instead, these looming, leaden-hued pillars of gas and dust gleam at their edges, hinting at the activity within.”
This is the second view of the iconic Pillars of Creation set within the vast Eagle Nebula, which lies 6,500 light-years away, according to NASA. “Thousands of stars that exist in this region seem to disappear since stars typically do not emit much mid-infrared light, and seemingly endless layers of gas and dust become the centerpiece,” the U.S. space agency said. Webb’s Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI) instead observes young stars that have not yet cast off their dusty cloaks.
The detection of dust by Webb’s MIRI holds extreme significance as dust is a major ingredient for star formation. The darkest shades of grey mark the densest areas of dust, while the red region toward the top is where the dust is diffuse and cooler. The bright red star jutting out of its lower edge on the topmost pillar and its dusty shroud are larger than the size of our entire solar system!
The column-like clouds in interstellar space, or Pillars of Creation, were first observed by Hubble Space Telescope in 1995 and revisited in 2014. According to a report by space.com, Hubble and Webb are tuned to different types of light and that is the difference in the two recent photos.
“The new imagery from Webb’s Mid-Infrared Instrument follows an image from its Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam) released earlier this month. Both photos also showcase the pillars in much more detail than is possible with Hubble, thanks to Webb’s bigger mirror and deep-space outpost,” the report stated.